Can you copyright a band name?

Written by Alexander Welham | March 16, 2022

Copyright

Here is a question that every aspiring musician asks themselves at one point or another, as did I when sitting on my drum throne (yes, us drummers are musicians too) during many practice sessions of my college rock band. I would often find myself pondering our band name and whether anyone else was already using it, because of course we were going to make it.

But before going straight to the answer, here is a quick quiz for you: what do Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Green Day and Metallica all have in common?

Other than being rock legends and perhaps revealing my preferred music genre (the best genre), they all have registered trade marks on their band names.

What’s that I hear you ask? A trade mark? Don’t you mean copyright? Actually, no. Let’s take a deeper look.

Can you copyright a band name?

No, copyright does not apply to band names. Band names are considered branding, and branding cannot be protected by copyright. However, you can still protect your name from copying and infringement by registering a trademark, like the bands mentioned above.

There are multiple forms of intellectual property, of which copyright is only one. There are other forms, like trade marks and patents, with each one designed to protect very different types of things. They are often confused but don’t worry, we’re here to help.

So, what are the key differences here?

In simple terms, all music artists should consider registering their name as a trade mark in order to protect against others using it. This can cover both your name and logo so long as it is a word, phrase, symbol, and design that identifies and distinguishes you from other music artists.

However, in the UK, the music you write (lyrics, compositions, etc) is automatically protected under copyright to which you would have sole ownership, or shared ownership if other people contributed to the creation.

If you require assistance in registering a trade mark or doing detailed clearance searches, do feel free to contact one of our expert solicitors at info@briffa.com.

Oh, and for those wondering the name my band settled on all those years ago, it was (drum roll please) … True Fiction. I think it’s still as relevant today as it was then.

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