Branding is key in maintaining a loyal fan base, gaining new listeners and ensuring longevity in all aspects of the music industry. As such, protecting one’s brand is just as important as branding itself. Artists and music entities can use various federal and state laws to protect their brands. Here are just a few:
Trademark/Service Mark – A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design used to identify and distinguish the source of a good. A service mark is just like a trademark, but instead identifies the source a service. The symbol ™ and ℠ are used to identify an unregistered trademark or service mark, respectively, and ® identifies a federally registered trademark.
Although registration is not required, there are many benefits to registration; such as having a public notice of ownership, a presumption of ownership, the ability to bring a trademark claim in federal court, and international protections.
Copyrights – A copyright provides exclusive rights to the author of an original work of authorship, and extends to literary, musical, dramatic, artistic and other forms of intellectual work. The symbol © is often used to notify the public of a copyright, but this notification is no longer mandatory.
Like trademarks and service marks, the owner of a copyright is not required to register the copyright, but registration provides the owner with a number of advantages.
Defamation – Defamation is a cause of action that arises when a person makes a false statement about another, which subsequently causes harm. Classifications of defamation are (1) slander – an oral representation, and (2) libel – a fixed representation, such as a comment made in writing.
Some harmful comments are not considered defamatory, such as statements of truth, opinion, and fair comment on issues of public interest.
Misappropriation – Misappropriation is the intentional and unauthorized use of property or funds belonging to others. This cause of action extends to the unauthorized use of intellectual property, as well as the unauthorized use of a person’s name, likeness and other personal attributes.
Moral Rights – Moral rights refers to a creator’s right to control his or her work. This protects the reputation of a creator, rather than the value of the work. Moral rights are generally not protected in the United States, but protection can sometimes be loosely granted under copyright, trademark, privacy and defamation laws.
Right of Publicity – The right of publicity protects persons from the unauthorized use of one’s name, likeness or personal attributes for commercial purposes. This rights gives a person the sole right to license his or her persona commercially.
Right of publicity is generally found under state law, and is often classified as a right of privacy.
False Endorsement – False endorsement is a claim under federal trademark laws, which protects a trademark owner from the unauthorized use of his or her mark to show sponsorship or endorsement.