Copyright Act §106

When someone creates a work of art, whether that’s a book, a script, a photo, or a movie, copyright protection is automatically granted. Copyright law also gives the author, (or authors) the rights listed below.

(1) To reproduce the copyrighted work in copes or phonorecords;

The right to reproduce, or make more copies of the work.

(2) to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;

The right to create derivative works based upon the original work. Think spin-offs, or expanded media. For example, a cartoon expanding its universe to a comic book.

(3) to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;

The right to distribute copies of the work to the public.

(4) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works, to perform the copyrighted work publicly;

The right to perform the work in public.

(5) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to display the copyrighted work publicly; and

The right to display the work in public. Think art galleries.

(6) in the case of sound recordings, to perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.

To perform the work in public via digital audio transmission. Think streaming services, such as Spotify. This is what is happening with the Twitch DMCA strikes. By streaming the music while you are publicly broadcasting, you are infringing on the music performers’ and/or record label’s public performance rights.

Generally, when an author (using the term broadly) is signing a contract with a publisher, they must transfer some or potentially all of these rights to the other party. Some good examples would be a writer signing over their rights to the book publisher, or a musician signing over their rights to the record label.

But why does the writer or musician have to do that?

When a writer creates their book, they are the owner. It also means that the writer is the one with the §106 rights listed above. The writer has the power to make more copies of the book and distribute the book. The publisher doesn’t have anything yet. The publisher will have to trade something — usually money — in order to gain the reproduction rights, distribution rights, digital rights (for audible), and more, in order to make more copies and distribute those copies to the public.

Please read your contracts! When it comes to a publisher deal, you, as the author, need to know what you are giving up. There are many unfortunate stories of musicians giving up so many rights that they no longer own their music.

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