2.23.2014

Intellectual Property Definition

What is intellectual property?

This is something I wanted to know. I had a general idea, and I was more or less correct, but I did a little research to make sure I got it right.

Intellectual property is basically any creation of the mind for which exclusive rights are recognized. These can be artistic creations (copyright) or inventions (patents), among other things. It also includes trademarks and a few other things.

The great thing about intellectual property is that it comes from the mind. The mind is a terrible thing to waste.

My mind is a factory of songs and blog posts, both of which become intellectual property when the are manifested in the material world, via recordings and online publishing for the world at large (like this post). An idea for something is not intellectual property until is is represented in the external world in some way. So if I am thinking about an idea for a clever blog post, it's not intellectual property until I actually compose and publish the post.

If you are reading this, I hope you are enjoying this small patch of intellectual property. Lay out a blanket and have a picnic. All are welcome and no fees.

When I record a song or publish a blog post, I have generated intellectual property. It doesn't take much to publish a blog post. Anyone can, technically, do it, and as such there is not a great deal of worth to a blog post like this, since the demand is low and the supply is high. On the other hand, I invest a lot of time and mental energy in the composition, recording, and publishing of songs. I guess I probably should get paid something when someone "consumes" my intellectual property. A lot of my songs are registered with Broadcast Music International (BMI), a performance rights organization that pays me royalties whenever a registered original song of my creation is performed in live or recorded form, provided they know of said performance. More on that in a moment.

Anyway, intellectual property rights are granted by law to compel innovation and provide a monetary incentive, in some cases, to get people to create intellectual property.

Even though I write my songs for VALUE not MONEY, I like knowing that another person can't just come along and say, "I am going to take that song and profit from it." If they take the song, and if they profit from it, intellectual property law mandates that I get a substantial cut, and the terms have to be worked out up front on paper, not after the fact.

Take for example my song ROAD HOG, technically intellectual property because it is "published" on my buddy's Internet server, accessible to the public, and also registered at BMI.

ROAD HOG is an awesome song. Someday it is going to be a fairly well known song. A lot of people are probably going to download it for free off the Internet and I won't see a dime of money for the few hours of songwriting and recording time that I put into it. That's OK. I am not complaining. I like that people get value from my music. I like that thanks to the digital age, the song will exist in perpetuity. I like to think I am compensated in other ways for my songs, like when people hear them and dig them, and then come to one of my band's shows. Presumably I am getting paid to play said show or will have t-shirts to sell people, so they can express their gratitude for my behind-the-scenes efforts. So in a way, my free and publicly available songs are kind of like a marketing tool, more than anything else. And everyone knows marketing is PURE OVERHEAD.

CLICK HERE FOR A T-SHIRT (or unmentionable...). I need to sell some of these buggers this year, says my accountant. And they are pretty good - black shirts with white print, so people can't see the sweat and dirt resulting from how hard you rocked out to my music ("...paging the HUBRIS POLICE").

Technically, when my band plays my original songs at a live music venue show, BMI is supposed to pay me royalties for that (any form of live or recorded broadcast). Music venues have to be licensed with the performance rights organizations to broadcast any published music that is registered with a PRO. All such venues pay an annual licensing fee to the main PROs, of which BMI and ASCAP are the best known, but there are many.

Tonight, my band GUPPY EFFECT is performing three original songs I wrote (including ROAD HOG) at Funk's Open Jam in Fitchburg. If that all goes to plan, I can go to BMI's website and register the short setlist, date, and the venue there. In about nine months, I should get a royalty check for $0.27 cents. I have done this in the past, and the PROs consistently pay me, as long as the venue has paid their licensing fee to have music (even if the venue just has digital radio or a jukebox, they still have to pay into the pot, since they are theoretically profiting from having music playing). I would assume that Funk's has paid for their music license, since they have both live and recorded music there, being a sports bar and all. But I am going to wait and make sure. I don't want them to get "busted" by BMI for not registering if they "overlooked" it. But it is the law, and if they are going to profit at musicians' expense, ought not they to pay up?

You tell me.

That's why this gosh darn blog site has a COMMENTS section after all. Don't be a stranger.

Also, tell your friends to read my blog. They probably won't. Who has time in this day and age? But tell them anyway. Tell them you like reading it and think they might too. But only if that is true. If it is false, stop reading right this instant!

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