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Pennies From Heaven?

February 4th, 2013

Sow a Seed at the Library of Congress

Yesterday at church a couple of friends showed me a banner that had been created for a campaign called “I Love my Church.” They wanted to protect the design, and they were talking about the money involved. They were talking about thousands of dollars. It has been maybe eleven years since I practiced IP law, and I’ve forgotten most of what I knew, but I knew enough to tell them the figure was a little high. My first boss loved money more than air, and he only charged $120 for a copyright application.

I thought about the music I’ve been composing. It’s all on Youtube. People have suggested I protect it. I turned on my PC and researched it. It turns out getting a copyright registration is easier than ever.

You don’t have to do ANYTHING in order to get a copyright. Everything you create is automatically copyrighted. But you may have to prove priority in court, and back when I was practicing, the federal courts wouldn’t even entertain a suit until you showed them a copyright certificate. Getting an official registration is smart. It’s also cheap.

I’ll tell you what I learned. The Library of Congress (the folks who are in charge of copyrights) has a new (to me) website. The location is http://www.copyright.gov. If you have a musical recording (or anything else) you want to copyright, this is where you go. Depending on the nature of the work, you may be able to upload a copy electronically, so you don’t even have to buy a stamp.

You have to create an account, and any information you supply will be in the public record. You’ll have to give them a mailing address. It might be smart to get a P.O. box.

The fee is $35 per work, but you can cheat. If you write 300 songs, you can put them in one body and call them one work. I had one tune that was finished in 2012 and three that were finished in 2013, so I grouped them separately and applied for two registrations.

The ins and outs of the process are extremely confusing. You’ll have to figure out which category to put your work in, and you may find yourself pulling your hair out before you’re done. I’m a lawyer, and it drove me nuts for about an hour.

If you create a musical composition, turn it into a recording, and master the recording yourself (as I did), you can cover all three things (melody, recording, and production) in one registration. You don’t have to send them sheet music.

I’m not charging for this info, and you’re not my clients, so it may be totally wrong. Don’t rely on it. But it may be helpful to people who have stuff to protect.

It’s very exciting, having those certificates on the way. I’ve never registered anything before. Not on my own behalf. Now if I turn on the TV and hear one of my tunes playing, it will be easy to turn the perpetrator into my employee, taking the royalties and doing no work, apart from what I’ve already done.

I don’t think this will happen, but you never know. A lot of the crap you hear on TV is not as good as my work. A sleazy jingle writer could find worse things to steal.

I’m going to have to leave my tunes on Youtube as long as possible, because they will also be evidence of priority. The copyright certificates will provide the years in which things were written, but they won’t provide dates. What if some goof copyrighted one of them right after I uploaded it? I’d need something to wave in the judge’s face.

I suppose it sounds a little arrogant, suggesting someone might want to come after my obscure, simple tunes. Think of the bad music you’ve heard on the radio. If that garbage can be stolen by infringers, so can my work.

If people end up paying for my work, it means that right now, God is giving me wealth. I have to make sure I don’t leave it out on the curb for people to steal.

God has helped me understand that copyright is the best form of IP protection. To get a patent, you have to do a gigantic amount of work and spend thousands of dollars, and you get a limited period of protection. Trademarks aren’t useful for most people, and they’re a lot of aggravation to get. To get a copyright, you spend five minutes filling out a form and uploading a file, and the copyright will outlive you. And creating a work of writing or music is WAY easier than inventing something. To a person who understands the mathematical nature of the world, it should be obvious that there is huge potential in copyright, and a bigger return for the effort.

In other news, I’ve had a big faith breakthrough. I’ve learned a few things.

First of all, prayer in tongues keeps paying off. It’s the single most powerful, most important thing I do. If I ever got to the point where my life was so crazy I had to make hard choices, prayer in tongues would be the last thing I gave up. Everything I’ve believed about it has proven to be true. Everything. The more you do it, the better off you’ll be, in every way. It will fuel your life and put a foundation under it.

Second thing: last week, God showed me that when I’m struggling to believe, I shouldn’t necessarily think about the big prayers he has answered. I’ve found that it’s more helpful to think about the little prayers he answers consistently. Does God help you find your car keys every time you pray? Think about that when you pray for him to heal you of cancer. God spoke the galaxies into existence. He can put a new leg on you just as easily as he can tell you where your sunglasses are.

This is much more powerful than it sounds. Try it.

Third thing: when you pray in tongues, keep this in mind: the words are God’s, not yours. God is speaking. He is using your voice, but it’s still him, and his words have power proportional to the faith you supply as you speak. If you think about this while you pray, your faith will be supernaturally increased. Somehow, the Holy Spirit responds to it. He will rise up inside you and support your faith. Your mind will be “stayed” (propped up) on God, as Isaiah said: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee (Isaiah 26:3).”

This is not a feel-good tip or a motivational tool. It is not carnal, like the garbage the self-help preachers teach. It is a key to supernatural power.

God has set his seal on some things he is doing for me and some people around me. He has told me this in faith. When your faith reaches a certain point, God will stamp a prayer as “done.” I’m not going to list the things that are coming my way, but I know they’re done. He has sealed things for me before, and he has come through. I think the funniest example was the Coral Gables pickup truck ban. He told me he was going to defeat the people who were trying to bring it back, and even though they voted to restore it, they failed. I have to admit, I laughed. These people were so sure their carnal efforts mattered, and they got so wound up. But it was all a waste of their time. They might as well have stayed home.

Don’t expect it to happen if you neglect the gift of tongues. God has gone to great trouble and pain to put a weapon in your hand. If you won’t use it, don’t whine when you fail. God is not a puppeteer; he will not pick up your limp body and move the limbs and the tongue to cause you to do and say what you should in order to be blessed. He has done so much already; he has taken a thousand steps toward you. If you won’t take one step toward him, you are not worth saving. If you won’t take the easy path he has provided, he may not help you. He may literally allow your enemies to murder you. You would not be the first.

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One Response to “Pennies From Heaven?”

  1. Jonathan Says:

    Online copyright registrations are easy after the first one. You can save your registration forms as a template for future registrations.

    It was probably a good idea to register your songs. You never know. My experience with photos is that 1) if a work is any good someone will steal it if it’s online long enough and 2) you have a lot of legal leverage if you register a work before someone rips it off and little leverage otherwise.