Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Before we go seriously into composing songs, I think it is better to explain why it is important to copyright our pieces.

What is copyright?

Copyright is a form of legal protection given to works of creative expression. The owner of the copyright in a work is given certain exclusive rights, such as the right to reproduce the work and to sell it. I personally use this right to publish my works all over the internet. All musical works should be copyrighted. Basically, I copyright the musical notes. The work copyrighted must be original in nature. I will explain later on what is considered originality.

How do I register copyright?

To be honest, there is no mechanism to register copyrighted musical works in Malaysia. Since there is no registration procedure, there is no certificate which can be granted in respect of copyright. The recommended way to assert ownership of copyright is to execute a Statutory Declaration.

What is Statutory Copyright

A statutory declaration is a legal document defined under the law of certain Commonwealth nations. It is similar to an oath, however, it is not sworn.

Statutory declarations are commonly used to allow a person to affirm something to be true. I therefore apply the statutory declaration for the originality of my musical works.

How long does copyright last?

For musical works, copyright will last for the life of me and 50 years after my ... err ... death.

Is Malaysia a member of the Berne Convention?

Yes. In short, Berne Convention is the countries of the Union, being equally animated by the desire to protect, in as effective and uniform a manner as possible, the rights of authors in their literary and artistic works, Recognizing the importance of the work of the Revision Conference held at Stockholm in 1967, Have resolved to revise the Act adopted by the Stockholm Conference, while maintaining without change Articles 1 to 20 and 22 to 26 of that Act.

Where to copyright?

I copyright my musical works through my company's secretary who is linked with a legal firm. One can copyright through a lawyer, an oath commissioner, and a patent company too.

Again, how to copyright?

Write the Statutory Declaration, provide two copies of Malaysian Identification Card OR two copies of Company's Registration Document, two copies of the musical notes (in form of computer files is acceptable) and stamp duty of RM 5.00. Once the stamp duty is paid, automatically the work is copyrighted.

Note: Azer Mantessa is an enterprise name. An enterprise name is a registered entity's name. In Malaysia, all registered entities names are qualified for any Statutory Declaration. It is so much better for my musical works to be declared done by an enterprise as this may increase the goodwill. There are many advantages of having an entity's name over birth name but I'm not explaining as this is out of scope. Those who are working in the public sector or corporation, do check with your employer's rules and regulation on having an entity's name.

Note: In Malaysia, all birth names are qualified to be registered as enterprise or entity names. Entity names however are not qualified to be registered as birth names. (Some countries do allow so).

Publishing the songs

Okay, I make it a habit to publish my songs all over the net simply because I want to make known that those are my songs. Usually, I publish the songs right after that RM 5.00 is paid. Cadenza MIDI Diary is the first place to be because the site do declare that all songs are original from composers who posted them.

About Originality

Okay, this is a very tricky issue in musical works. Let me explain.

There are two main dimensions in music:

1) The acoustics of sound which was previously explained in the past entries. The sound is the notes A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G and G#. The sound cannot be changed because it is given by nature or by God (to the believers ... hehehe).

2) This is the one which is tricky. It has some sub dimensions:

a) Harmony - A major chord will always sound like a major chord, a harmonic minor scale will always sound like a harmonic minor scale. I will explain what are chords in future entries.
b) Rhythm - The result of the mind of the composer. Rhythm is basically the beat of a song but I will explain more on rhythm in future entries.
c) Melody - The notes played at certain duration at certain time as explained previously in the previous entries.The originality of this dimension is all of the above combined.

Note: There are other types of originality in music like a singer's voice, or the way a singer sings or the way a musician plays a musical instrument BUT this is not the originality type in concern. It is however one of an interesting issue in music and I will write on this in future entries.

A bit more on Originality

How do we know that our work is original?

The answer lies back at the Berne Convention where there are procedure to MEASURE originality. The procedure is highly mathematical and I am not going to explain it here as it involves heavy mathematical calculations. In short, an originality of a song cannot be more than 50% of the originality of another song.

Perhaps, some of us have not noticed but the idea of the song "Baa Baa Black Sheep" is quite similar with the idea of a song "Wonderful World" by Nat King Cole BUT still the song by Mr. Cole is considered original as it exceed more than 50% of the originality of the former.

In short, as all of us are unique from one another, it is rare that the songs composed are more than 50% similar to other songs composed by other people.