As a musician, songwriter or singer, the works that you produce may be your primary source of income, as well as a deep and meaningful expression of your personal experience. It may be very rewarding to realize that people connect with something you created, but that doesn’t mean you want others to profit from one of your songs.
It can feel like a serious violation to discover that someone else has sampled one of your works without licensing or any form of compensation. Maybe someone sent you the link to an online video where a professional streamer plays a video game while listening to one of your songs. Maybe your song plays in the background of a local commercial.
What rights do you have if someone samples your song without permission?
You have copyright protection for your creations
The moment you first publish an original work, whether you type out the lyrics to your song on social media or upload a video of you performing the piece, you have basic copyright protections. You can strengthen those protections by filing formal copyright paperwork with the federal government.
If someone else attempts to use your original work, especially if they use it to make money, they may have violated your copyright protections. Typically, a third party needs permission to use your original work. They may need written authorization or to pay a licensing fee to you or a company that owns the rights to the song.
If they fail to do so, you could potentially take them to court.
What happens during a copyright enforcement lawsuit?
If you take someone else to court for using your copyrighted music without permission, there are multiple ways that the courts could help you. They could order the other party to stop using your work, which might involve removing existing videos from digital platforms or no longer airing a commercial that used your song without permission.
If you can show that the other party profited from the use of your song or damaged your ability to profit from it, you may have grounds to request damages from the other party as well. With the exception of scenarios where someone can claim fair use because they wanted to review your song or parody it, someone sampling it without permission could very well wind up ordered to stop doing so and to compensate you for their misconduct.
Learning more about what protects you as a professional musician or songwriter will assist you in enforcing those copyright protections.