Developing a Copyright System That Works For Songwriters

Carnes, Rick

The organization that I head, the Songwriters Guild of America (SGA), is the oldest and largest national organization in the world run exclusively by and for the creators of musical compositions and their heirs. SGA has approximately five thousand members nationwide and over eighty years of experience in advocating for music creator rights on the federal, state and local levels. SGA’s membership comprises songwriters, lyricists, composers and the estates of deceased members. SGA provides a variety of administrative services to its members-including contract analysis, copyright registration and renewal filings, termination rights notices, and royalty collection and auditing-to ensure that songwriters receive fair and accurate ‘compensation for the use of their works. SGA takes great pride in its unique position as the sole untainted representative of the interests of American and international music creators, uncompromised by the frequently conflicting views and “vertically integrated” interests of other copyright users and assignees.

Now, I want to stress that I am not a lawyer. What I am is a professional songwriter who has been lucky enough to have had some modest success over a period of years, including having my songs on over forty platinum albums. And one thing we songwriters know about-and frequently write about-is right and wrong, good and bad. So, as Congress is reviewing the state of copyright in the United States, I would like to use this opportunity to discuss what is right and what needs fixing.


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Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts

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November 21, 2016