Valuing your Musical Creativity

JACAP Copyright FAQ

What is copyright?

Copyright protects original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. It allows an original work to be considered a property that is owned by somebody. The relevant  JA law is the Copyright Act 1988.

How does copyright work in music?

When a song or piece of music is written, the person who wrote it owns the copyright and therefore has the right to decide how and when it should be played. Music is released, allowing individuals to purchase a song which they can play at home. However, if an individual wishes to play that song to a wider group of people, for example on their business or organization’s premises, it is classed as a public performance. If you want to make a public performance you must first seek permission from the copyright owner of that song before you do so. This permission is known as a licence.

When does copyright begin?

In music, copyright begins automatically once a piece of music is created then documented or recorded, for example on video, tape or CD or simply writing down the notation of a score.

How is copyright protected?

No official registration is necessary to secure copyright in a work. Under Jamaica law both musical and literary works are automatically protected from the time they are created. Consequently, in the event of a dispute over authorship, ownership or originality, there is no standard method of proving that one work was in existence before another.
There are however, suggested ways to help prove that the work was created on a specific date:

• Send a copy of the work to yourself by registered mail leaving the envelope unopened and stored in safe place together with receipt from the post office (Poorman Copyright)
• Deposit a copy of the work(s)to the National Library of Jamaica
• Deposit a copy of the work(s) with an Attorney-at-law (you may be required to pay legal fees

The registration of a title of a work with JACAP (as is required of members) does not create copyright in the notified work.

How do I copyright my songs? Is it necessary?

Technically, the creator of a song receives copyright protection automatically the moment the song is in fixed form. That means that if you make any recording of your song, even a simple boom box recording, or transcribe a lead sheet with chords, melody and lyrics you have secured a copyright.

The question of whether or not it's necessary to register a copyright with the Copyright Office sometimes arises out of the fear that someone may "steal" your song. While there are certainly documented stories of copyright theft, our experience has been that it is not a widespread phenomenon, especially when dealing with legitimate, successful companies and people. This should not be used as an excuse for not being prudent and wise.

How do I protect my copyright?

Copyright protection is automatic as soon as there is a record in any form of what has been created (there is no official registration). However, steps can be taken by the creator of a work to provide evidence that he or she had the work at a particular time. For example, a copy could be deposited with a bank or solicitor. Alternatively, a creator could send himself or herself a copy by special delivery post (which gives a clear date stamp on the envelope), leaving the envelope unopened on its return. A number of private companies operate unofficial registers, but it would be sensible to check carefully what you will be paying for before choosing this route.

It is important to note, that this does not prove that a work is original or created by you. But it may be useful to be able to show that the work was in your possession at a particular date, for example where someone else claims that you have copied something of theirs that was only created at a later date.
Another useful step for a copyright owner to take when copyright material is published is to mark it with the international copyright symbol © followed by the name of the copyright owner and year of creation. This is not essential in the UK, but may assist you in infringement proceedings, and will be needed in certain foreign countries.

What are your rights as a copyright owner?

If you own the copyright you possess the sole authority to:
• copy the music
• issue, lend or rent copies to the public
• perform, show or play the music in public
• communicate the music to the public, for example broadcasting it via TV, radio or internet

What happens to your rights when you become a JACAP member?

When joining as a JACAP member your rights are transferred to us. These are:
• to perform the music in the public, such as concerts, pubs and shops
• to communicate the music to the public, via broadcast, on demand services, internet services, satellite and cable transmissions and more.

How long does copyright last?

In the Jamaica, copyright generally lasts for a period of 50 years from the end of the calendar year in which the author’s dies. If the music originates from outside the European Economic Area, the copyright lasts for as long as the music is protected by copyright in its country of origin, provided that the length of time does not exceed 70 years.

What is JACAP?

The Jamaica Association of Composers, Authors and Publishers (JACAP) is a membership organization which collects licence fees from copyright music users and distributes the money as royalties to the music creators, that is the writers and publishers of music - the people who own the copyright (including the performing right) in that music. JACAP was set up (in 1998) to make things easier for the music user and the music creator. A JACAP licence allows you to use all types of music, from all over the world legally. Whether the music is live or played on a tape/CD player, jukebox, radio, video, TV or karaoke and whether or not the performers are paid - a JACAP licence is a legal requirement.

There are similar performing right societies throughout the world. By agreement with them, JACAP represents their members in its territory and is represented by them in theirs. JACAP licenses works actively in Jamaica and, through affiliation agreements with similar societies abroad is entitled to license their works too - everything from our own internationally acclaimed Reggae music, an advertising jingle to entire symphonies, with every kind of music in between.

How can JACAP Help Me?

JACAP members are composers, lyricists and music publishers. JACAP looks after the performing right (and if the members so agree also the mechanical/reproduction right) in their works. It would be almost impossible for the individual creators to keep track of public performances, and broadcasts, of their music across Jamaica and the rest of the world, and to issue licenses and collect fees due, so organizations like JACAP do it on their behalf.

Who should join JACAP?

Songwriters, composers and music publishers should join JACAP.

I am a manager of a member, can I be involved with their JACAP account?

In order for a JACAP member to give authority to others to act on their behalf they will need to fill in a 3rd Party Mandate Form. This form needs to be printed out, filled in and signed, then sent to the address at the bottom. When filling the form in, members can choose what kind of access the third party has (such as changing personal details and access to online services).

Please note, without a completed mandate form returned to us we are unable to give out details of a member's account to third parties.
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