Music piracy and registered design infringement - a cunning enforcement tool?
When it comes to music these days, whilst a good beat and lyrics is naturally of paramount importance in achieving a successful music track, also of commercial importance is the album artwork used to market, and which accompanies, the music track in question.
Indeed, whether a given audio track is sold in physical form (for example, on CD or vinyl), or made available in a digitally stored or streamed format, in both cases the album artwork will invariably be reproduced in some form - either on the front cover of the physical CD or vinyl, or on a screen when the audio track is played (the artwork being taken from the metadata embedded in the audio track).
That being the case, at least in the UK; Germany; and the rest of the EU, it is worth noting that the appearance of any album artwork might be protected with a registered design to better safeguard against any unlawful reproduction and use of a given music track employing the artwork. In this respect, unlike many other design registration systems around the world, the above noted design registration systems allow for such artwork to be protected as a registered design.
Of course, in the context of any illegitimate use of a music track, one might ordinarily rely on any copyright residing in the sound from the music track itself, and potentially any copyright residing in the album artwork of the music track, to tackle any such illegitimate use. However, by obtaining additional registered design protection in respect of the album artwork, this may prove invaluable in the above situations - not least in terms of providing for additional damages and other forms of relief. In addition, any obtained registered design protection might further be put to effective use in dealing with any counterfeit merchandise which employs the album artwork, noting a registered design in the above territories can nominally be enforced in respect of any goods employing the protected design.
Enforcement issues aside, the provision of registered design protection in respect of an album artwork may also open up additional streams of licensing revenue, through being able to further control and license out any particular use of the album artwork.
And with such UK/German/EU registered design protection being respectively achievable for as little as £50/€70/€350, which then provides for an initial period of protection lasting for five years (which can ultimately be extended up to 25 years if required), certainly the protection represents excellent value for money, and so is worth bearing in mind. Furthermore, the speed in which design registration protection can be obtained to cover the above territories is very quick. In this respect, registered design protection covering the UK alongside the EU can be achieved in a mere matter of days.
Conscious of the above, for those interested in obtaining registered design protection in respect of a given album artwork, the important thing to note is that such protection should ideally be obtained prior to any public disclosure of the album artwork. This is because an integral part of valid registered design protection is that a design must be sufficiently new and distinguishing over what has come before (so called the design needing to have "novelty" and "individual character").
So in respect of any upcoming music artwork releases, do consider whether a registered design might be suited to protect it, bearing in mind the additional benefits such protection might provide.