Publishing & Copyright Alternatives (piggy-backing the "ARTISTS BEWARE OF INTERNET" discussion.

I'm "piggy-backing" Cynthia Smith's great discussion on what to look out for when putting your music out there on the internet. Please feel free to post your comments on what has worked or has not worked  for you as an artist & performer. I'm especially interested in shared experiences involving publishing & copyrighting original material, managing yourself, distributing your material, use of pre-existing music & how to get publisher's permission, etc. You may want to check the aforementioned discussion on "ARTISTS BEWARE......" to see why this discussion was set up!!!

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Replies to This Discussion is a newish website set up for those who want to safely copyright their own material. Just to let musicians know. Enda

I recently remembered an "independent ITM music group" (one member a friend of mine) that recorded a song on one of their CDs. All was well until someone posted the song (with a video) on YouTube. They (or someone????) immediately pulled the song and all kinds of legal problems ensued, much that my friend refused to talk about it. Very strange!!! I assume it had to deal with lack of permission from the artist/publisher to use the song. Any comments on this would be appreciated.

Also, someone told me that there is a persistent & vigilant "watchdog" group that looks for illegal use of songs,...particularly in the Irish Music community,....that was set up by music publishers to protect their interests. I don't know how true this is but it is kind of scary that someone will come after you if you attempt to use "their stuff". I'm all for artists protecting their music ownership rights, but the corporate entities have no face and a "business only looks out for themselves $$$$ & $$$$ their business". Bit of a sticky thing to discuss this openly. Anonymity does have advantages!!! Any comments??? Cheers,


This past weekend, I spoke to a musician/composer who told me his way of by-passing the Copyrighting Nightmare (his words). Apparently, when he writes a song and is finished, he dates it and mails it to himself and files the returned "sealed/postmarked" envelope (with the song title and date written on the outside of the envelope for referrence). His logic is that, if needed, he can produce this parcel for any legal argument in court as to ownership of the song. I asked him if he "notarizes" the song before mailing it out (with a signed official witness,....we have notary public officials here in the States,....don't know if they're in other countries). I was surprised when he said he didn't. Now, I've heard of this "sealed/postamarked" letter thing before, but never knew anyone that actually did it. And I don't know if this approach would hold up in court,....not to mention if he were going to put his music out there on a CD. I would think that something more universal (copyright laws???!!!) and standardized would make more sense. Anyone care to comment???


Hey Dhomhnaill! 

Here's a laugh for ya!  I registered some of my original music/songs with the US Copyright office late in 2011.  After MONTHS of waiting and emails and such, I finally received the registration certificate this month! 

Hey Cynthia. What's two years in the life of a tree,....or a rock??? Now you're all legal 'n sh*t!!!! LOL!!! };^)

Ya know,....I half expected more comments to this discussion,....but now I wonder: Is this such a sensitive topic that no one would care to comment (with self-incriminating information or experiences)??? Perplexed and confused,


Hey Dhomhnaill!

Two years might matter if it's music that a group is working on for recording, and it's not under copyright protection  yet.  I still have a pile of music to copyright and I get the creeps thinking about going through the process again. 

Having one's music on a tangible thing, such as a cd or cassette or vinyl, with the rights reserved comment, is a form of protection, as it more or less indicates the date of creation (of the music), as long as no one else has recorded it, or submitted it for copyright, before yourself/your band. 

Using "poor man's copyright", which is sending a copy of your music to yourself and not opening the envelope, will not hold up in court.  Nor will uploading your music to a digital site.

I am not surprised that you have not had more responses to this discussion since it seems to me that many musicians are confused about the issues of copyright protection. 

Also, the aural tradition of celtic/Irish music does not include copyright protection, or credits for composition.  I still get a laugh when I remember the story Randal Bays told me that Paddy Fahy insisted on naming all his tunes "Paddy Fahy's" (jig, reel, etc.).  Folks just started numbering them.  Supposedly Paddy said, "that if the tunes weren't called "Paddy Fahy's" who would know who composed them?"

Christy Barry ran into a similar problem with his jigs, Christy Barry's #1 and #2.  I got the sheet music from the Irish Traditional Music Archives a decade or two ago.  When I spoke with Christy re: recording his tunes on the phone, he gave his blessing and asked for the names of the tunes to be "IN CAPITAL LETTERS" because they had already been credited otherwise to other musicians, because of the fact that they were recorded on albums.

Gotta be careful!

Cynthia Smith,

Hiya Cynthia!!! Regardless of other folk not checking in on this discussion, I am grateful for your input. I've learned so much from you. Your "to the point" observations have cleared up many questions I've had,... and your tireless efforts for "Smitty's Kitchen" have provided you with valuable insight that I, for one, am very appreciative of your sharing. YOU GO, GIRL!!!! Slan go foill,


Hi Danny;

I think the problem of no response is probably this subject is sensitive to many.  I have been "burned" a couple of times with production of a Public Domain tune if you can believe that.

It was on YouTube where I had posted a simple fiddle rendition of (The) Swallowtail Jig and found out that they would not allow it to be played due to a complaint that I was offending someone's Copyright privileges to this tune. To say the least I was puzzled.

The chap had claimed he had Copyright to this tune, and that my presentation of it was a blatant slap in his face that I should post it without his permission.  My response to YouTube was that I had started playing this Public Domain tune 20 yrs before the claimant was born, and gave the usual history of the tune to them.  Needless to say that YouTube had to agree with me that he could not possibly hold a Copyright to this tune.I guess a lot of us are growing tired of this belligerent type of claim of Copyright from people who have found a way to find old, supposedly obscure tunes, and put their name to it.

I have found that, although laws are supposed to protect, in reality (to me anyhow) are a hindrance, and for those of us who have our own scores out there the cost of protecting them  can outweigh the income one can make from them, let alone the bureaucracy one faces in getting it protected.

Here's a thought.  So person A writes an original tune of their own, but somewhere there is a part that sounds darn familiar to another tune, unintentional of course, does person B come along and state that person A's song can not be Copyright because of this?

This Copyright thingy is a conundrum to say the least!!!!


OK....Here's some more fodder for Albert's query.  Even if a tune is public domain, or traditional, and your recording of a tune/set is protected by a form of copyright, and registered with BMI, ASCAP, etc., you will be the copyright holder.....Which is why many times trad musicians will use a made up name for a tune/set. That is often done to protect an arrangement of a tune/set....And that is legal. 

For instance, at this time, Smitty's Kitchen is the copyright holder to our set, If  There Weren't Any Men/If There Weren't Any Women, simply because I registered our recording of the set, from our first album, which was published via Discmakers, with BMI.  Our recording of the set is protected....But that does not necessarily mean that either tune couldn't be submitted for copyright under another name, as long as the arrangement/title is different.

I am unclear about Youtube as I have not made any of our video or recordings published through that medium.  It's a project still waiting to be done.  My understanding is that youtube is vigilant  protecting themselves re: uploads.  I do know that if anyone should use our recorded music for a youtube video, Smitty's Kitchen must be paid the licensing fees, since our music is protected.

Here's another interesting thought for y'all.  There is a worldwide datebase called MusicEye (or is that MusicI).  All recorded music which is made public is in this database....So one's recorded music can be identified, and if it's registered, and/or protected by copyright, and it is used in public, royalty fees can be paid via SoundExchange, for instance, to the artist, and licensing fees can be obtained, if necessary. 

I wear the band members out by overloading their input capacities with all this stuff....Enough for tonight!


Cynthia Smith

Harry Fox (the company) disputed copyright on our Danny Boy video on YouTube.  I submitted the facts and evidence, they repeated the false claim, asked for my location and sworn oath etc... but I knew the law and that the song was out of copyright, and my voice was the only audio on the video.  The only copyright was mine on my sound recording (vocal).  They eventually gave up the claim, but I think half of the act is to scare those unfamiliar with copyright law.  Some will give in and pay royalties when they are not really due ?  Thousands of people could knowingly be charged with false copyright disputes, that is an actionable act in itself I think.

Glad to see more info on this subject via knowledgeable people like Albert, Cynthia and Mike. 'Tis a sensitive subject and poses many questions and concerns to the unknowledgeable (like myself). Kind of scary too!!! Would love to read more from others, please don't hesitate to share.



I've no time for copyright issues like this and Irish trad music. This is a folk music, comes from and belongs to the ordinary people. Many Irish trad musicians have come up with tunes over the years and appreciate being credited for same but that should be the start and finish of it. We all stand on the shoulders of those that have gone before and have no right to expect anymore that what they received and enjoyed - the pleasure of playing the music.

If bands and individuals want to make some sort of income from the music, that's fine but I feel they have a moral obligation to stay within the tradition, including the above. I believe it's a very important aspect of the tradition and will sustain it into the future.

It's all about a community music - it doesn't belong to individuals and nobody should think of trying to claim ownership of same. Go look at other music genres if that's your inclination - plenty of room in the rock & pop world etc. for copyright.

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