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Good article on Copyright, band names, etc...

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    Posted: 31 Mar 2010 at 2:44pm
Hi Guys,

we did an interview with a copyright attorney and tried to get the most common copyright and trademark questions answered as possible.

Many bands ask us how this works, and when I was in a band, this was often a topic of discussion after band practice.  

Here is some of the interview.  it's a little long, so see the rest on our blog if you're interested.

hope it answers some questions.  

Interview with Cheryl Hodgson, US Copyright Attorney

Copyright, branding questions answered. Artists, check it out.

One of the common questions that artists and bands always ask is, �How can I copyright my music and secure that my band is the only one allowed to use that name?�

How can you ensure that no one else will use your name�your brand?

We decided to ask attorney Cheryl Hodgson a few questions.  She has more than 25 years of experience in trademark and copyright legal matters. Cheryl has represented many groups in registering names, and litigated a number of disputes involving ownership of band names.  Cheryl also has a blog called �BRANDAIDE.�  We hope this interview will give bands a better idea of how to protect their cherished name and brand. Before the Internet, this was already a tricky question.  Today, this is even more complicated.  How can a band secure that they are the only ones using a particular name?

Hodgson  The two most important actions steps are:
1.    Reach an agreement as to who owns the name and document it in writing.
2.    Register the name in the name of the partnership or business entity which the group forms, or the individual(s) who are to control the name.

Groups fail to register their name, because they feel they cannot afford it in the early stages.  Secondly, they do not have a clear agreement has to who is the owner of the name.  Both often cause problems down the road.  

A few years ago, the founders of the largest Mexican group in America were jailed in Mexico for two months for attempting to perform in Mexico under their own name.  A former associate had registered the name in Mexico before they did, and when they fired him, he had them put in the slammer!

A lead singer and writer of a famous Canadian group from the 60�s cannot perform in the U.S., because a former band member registered the name in the U.S.  The former member and owner of the name in the U.S. tours regularly now in casinos, but misleads the public because none of the known original members are in the group.  The older group members do not want to spend $100,000 or more to fight to get the name back in the U.S.  Does having the �.com� mean a band owns that name?

Hodgson  NO!  A domain is an address for a website on the Internet.  Unless the name is used for advertising and marketing of specific goods and services, there are no trademark rights created by registering the domain.  A domain will not prevent someone else from registering the band name as a federal trademark with the proper government agency, such as the U.S. Trademark Office.  Do you recommend that artists file their band name as a brand with the trademark bureau?

Hodgson  Yes, in the U.S., registration is with the U.S. Trademark Office in Washington, D.C.  The filing fee is $325 per class, plus legal fees.    The classes most relevant to groups are those for recordings, merchandise, and live performance.  If cost is a factor, pick one, and choose live performances.  In Canada, there is no classification system, so filing the descriptions is a bit easier.   

In a case currently pending in Chicago, the indie label registered the group name as its own (after the group had already recorded 5 albums on their own).  The group is now distributed by a major label in the U.S. 

The indie label registered only for merchandise and recordings, not live performances.  The judge issued an injunction allowing the original group to continue to perform, but they cannot sell records or merchandise while the case is pending.  I believe the judge is wrong, but until the case is tried, both groups are performing and it is a disaster for their careers.  When you file in one country, does that mean it is valid around the world?  Should bands register their brand in several territories? 

Hodgson  The U.S. recognizes �common law� rights based upon use, but majority of the world does not.  The first to file is the owner!  Even in the U.S., possession is 9/10 of the law.    The territory where the group is based and performs is the most important.  If a group goes between two countries such as U.S. and Canada, registering in both can be important.  This sounds like a lot of work for an indie band to handle.  It can also get rather expensive, correct?

Hodgson  Expensive guitars are sexier here to continue and finish reading ( - Rock, Metal, Punk downloads
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