Creating Timestamps aka Poor Man’s Copyright

Creating timestamps is a conversation you hear around music artists. It is assumed that it is a sure fire way of protecting one’s ownership in a musical composition. But first, what is a timestamp?

Timestamp has been defined as the moment in which an information is registered as existing by a computer or digital system. It is the digital or literal record of the time [and date] of occurrence of a particular event.

In addition, it can also be a literal stamp, for example postal stamps carrying the date & time on a document or package. This is the famously acclaimed “poor man’s copyright”.

Why are Timestamps Important?

As a creative, there may be times you need to prove ownership or co-ownership of a creative work e.g. lyrics, beats, hooks, etc. due to a copyright infringement. Consequently, timestamps may serve as circumstantial evidence of your ownership but will not prove your ownership.

Timestamps also aid in record keeping/archiving of your creative works. It can prove that the work was in existence on a particular date.

There are different ways of timestamping:

1. Automatic Timestamp: The type that occurs when you save your work on your system.

2. Recording a video of yourself on a device as you work in your studio and with other collaborators.

3. Uploading such video on a social media platform with clear captions. E.g. cooking up mad beats with so-so musicians or producers.

4. Posting and emailing your work to yourself

However, bear in mind that timestamps may not be enough to prove ownership in a court of law. This is especially prevalent in countries where Poor Man’s Copyright is not admissible as evidence in court. Also, it is one thing to possess copyright in a work and it is also another thing to be able to prove the copyright in a court of law.

A better way…

1. Register your work with the relevant copyright board. This is the most effective way of proving your ownership as evidence of this is admissible in court.

2. Make the split sheet your best friend when writing/producing a song with other people.

3. Affidavit documentation of the work.

4. Enter into Collaboration Agreements/Contracts identifying the specific song and your role in it.

If you do any of these, timestamping might not be necessary at all.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this carousel is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a lawyer. 

You can also read “Creatives are Bad At Business“. 

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