Intellectual Property

Top 5 Steps To Protecting Your Music

By Cheng Leong Foong, Rachel Fung
13 March, 2019

As the Internet continues to transform the landscape of the music industry, its players have to navigate and find their place in it.

While the age of the Internet has brought new and exciting ways for musicians to reach wider audiences for example through music streaming or sharing sites, it has also brought its own set of problems such as online piracy and widespread unlicensed use of music. It is in this environment that any artist needs now more than ever to understand how they can take charge of and better protect their work. This article seeks to share the intellectual property laws that are important for any artist to know and more importantly, the practical steps you can take to protect your music in Malaysia.

1.Protect your copyright
This is the most basic and important area of law for an artist. Copyright exerts your ownership over your creation and it is what gives you the host of exclusive rights you have over your music, such as performance, reproduction and distribution of it. There are two main types of copyright in music. The first is the composition copyright which protects the melody and lyrics of a song and belongs to composers, lyricists and publishers. The second type is the sound recording copyright. This protects the recording itself that has been made of a piece of music and usually belongs to the performers and maker of a recording. Be clear on which copyright you are dealing with and what belongs to you.

An interesting point to note is that copyright in fact comes into existence upon the time of creation of your work without you having done anything further. However, your creation must be in a tangible form such as sheet music, lyrics you have written down or a sound recording. Hence an idea in your head or even a freestyle live performance cannot be copyrighted.

Further, even though copyright exists upon creation, should you be faced with any dispute over the ownership of your work in the future, proving that you have the copyright in the work is another matter. There are a number of simple ways you can be prepared for this.

In Malaysia, the best and preferred method is to simply notify the Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia (MyIPO) of your copyright. This is a lot simpler than it may first seem and is also a more secure method for if you ever have to prove your copyright before a court of law. All it involves is filling up a form called Form CR-1, making a statutory declaration that you are the owner and/or author of the work and details of the work, and depositing a copy of the work with MyIPO. MyIPO’s website (www.myipo.gov.my) is very helpful in this respect as it provides samples of the form and statutory declaration needed and even has an easy to follow flowchart of the process. Application costs are reasonable with fees starting from RM35 for an application.

Another alternative method is called the poor man’s copyright. This involves placing into an envelope a sample of your created work, sealing it, and mailing it to yourself using registered mail. The key is not to open the mail when you receive it and to keep your proof of postage. This mail package then becomes proof that you created a particular work at a particular time.

The modern day version of this would be uploading your music to a website such as Facebook, YouTube or Bandcamp as your uploads would carry date-stamps.

2.Make trade marks work for you
While copyright law involves the protection of creative works, trade marks are more to do with your branding. Trade mark protection refers to the protection of a sign, word or phrase which helps to distinguish your goods from those of another. Trade marks will thus likely be most relevant to music artists in respect of band names or logos and particularly with regards to merchandise. Think the Rolling Stone’s tongue and lip logo. According to a recent poll, this legendary logo is now the most iconic T-shirt design of all time.

When first coming up with a band name, it may be worth checking to see if a possible name you have in mind is already listed or not on the WIPO trade mark database. This is to ensure that you do not pick a name or logo which is identical or similar to that of another music artist and hopefully avoid the possibility of any trade mark infringement troubles in the future.

If you are at the stage of considering to expand into merchandise with a band name or logo printed on it, then you may wish to consider registering your band name or logo as trade marks. Registering logos or names as trade marks however is a more expensive and complicated process than registering copyrights. Hence it is advisable to seek some legal advice in this respect to find out what is the best option for your situation.

3.Become a member of a music licensing society (hello royalties!)
Music licensing societies help to license the use of music and provide royalties to their members when their music is played, performed or broadcasted in any way. In Malaysia, the sole licensing body is now Music Rights Malaysia (MRM), which then distributes the fees and royalties collected to its member bodies such as Music Copyright Protection Berhad (MACP), Recording Performers Malaysia Berhad (RPM) and Public Performance Malaysia (PPM). Thus composers, lyricists and publishers should still sign up for membership with MACP, while recording artists can sign up with RPM. MACP and RPM membership forms can be downloaded from their websites respectively.

4.Spell things out
As with any relationship, communication and setting things out clearly is important. You can think of this step as a “music pre-nup”. Where a piece of work is a group effort, have a talk with your co-authors to establish which part of it they own. An easy example would be in a lyricist and composer duo where the lyricist owns the copyright in the lyrics written and the composer owns the composition. If you are thinking of signing to a recording company, spell out clearly your rights in your music. Thus in the (hopefully unlikely!) event of an Oasis-level breakup, knowing your rights and positions clearly can help prevent future copyright squabbles.

5. Talk to an intellectual property lawyer
Finally, where you still have questions on your intellectual property rights or what is the best option for you, have a chat with a lawyer. Besides advising or assisting you on the steps above, a good lawyer can also help check through any contracts that you may sign with a recording company for example to ensure that your rights are protected.

In the mean time, keep making music and remember to protect it well!

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR(S)

Foong Cheng Leong is an Advocate and Solicitor of the High Court of Malaya and also a registered Malaysian trade mark, industrial designs and patent agent. He is the author of the book, Compendium of Malaysian Intellectual Property Cases. He also writes at www.foongchengleong.com.

Rachel Fung graduated from King’s College London with a Law LLB, where she first developed an interest in intellectual property law. She is called to the Bar of England and Wales and the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak. She is currently chambering at the boutique IP firm, Foong Cheng Leong & Co.

First published on Music Press Asia on 8 March 2019.

Withholding Tax Exemption on Payment to Non Residents For Technical Advice, Assistance, etc

The Minister of Finance has granted withholding tax exemption (WHT) on payments to non-residents that fall within Section 4A(i) and (ii) of the Income Tax Act in respect of offshore services via the Income Tax (Exemption) (No. 9) Order 2017.

In effect this reverts to the previous position, such that intellectual property services (such as trade mark, industrial designs and patent registrations) provided and performed from 6 September 2017 by a foreign intellectual property agent outside of Malaysia will be exempt from WHT.

BFM Podcast: LANDMARK #4: FACEBOOK

Subsequent to my update on the Malaysian 2016 cyberlaw cases, I was interviewed by BFM Radio to talk about general laws applicable to social media in Malaysia on 13 April 2017. I also covered the rules applicable to your digital data after your death and how to manage them in preparation of your death.


Who owns the pictures you post on Facebook? Can comments you post on Facebook be used against you in court, even after it is deleted? How is defamation defined on social media? On this episode of Landmark, a series exploring how the law shapes society and vice versa, lawyer Foong Cheng Leong talks us through recent rulings involving the social media platform and explains where the law currently stands when it comes to Facebook.

Your browser does not support native audio, but you can download this MP3 to listen on your device.

Don’t be penny-wise, startups: lawyers

I gave on a talk on Intellectual Property Law for Startup at a firechat sessions titled “Bridge the Gap between Startups and the Law” organised by BurgieLaw held at the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) on 9 May 2016.

Subsequent to the firechat session, I was featured in The Star in their article “Don’t be penny-wise, startups: lawyers“. An extract of the article produce below:-

Intellectual Property lawyer Foong Cheng Leong said he often got queries from startups on how to protect their ideas.

“It’s usually quite reasonable, but sometimes they try to protect things that can’t be protected,” he said, adding that abstract ideas and business concepts could not be shielded with a patent.

He advised companies to research what they expected from a lawyer, as well as the lawyer’s credentials, before arranging a meeting. This would ensure the lawyer had the correct skill sets.

He noted that many local lawyers were geared to common transactions like property and sale and purchase agreements, and not many had explored tech-related laws.

With 11 years in the industry, Foong said he had seen his share of cases where businesses try to D-I-Y and drafted their contracts without going to a lawyer, only to end up going to a lawyer anyway after things went wrong.

He said while filing a trademark costs around from RM2,000, going to court over a logo or brand name dispute could easily cost more than RM100,000 and take between nine months and a year.

Sometimes running lean also means not being penny-wise and pound-foolish.

Compendium of Intellectual Property Cases – Copyright and Industrial Designs Volume 2

I am pleased to announce that the second volume of the Compendium of Intellectual Property Cases had been published by LexisNexis. This volume covers Malaysian copyright and industrial designs cases.

It contains more than 50 reported and unreported cases on copyright and industrial designs from the Malaysian Sessions Court, High Court, Court of Appeal and Federal Court.

To assist readers, the cases are summarised in a form a catchwords and an index has been prepared to categorise the cases.

The cases have been divided into sections: copyright infringement, criminal offences, industrial design infringement, rectification of registered industrial design. The cases also covers other issues such as non-compliance of contempt, licensing, interlocutory injunction, software copyright, in these intellectual property cases. Many of these judgements are not published by the local law journals and they contain many important points of laws.

You can get a copy from LexisNexis at their website (click here). For the first volume, you can purchase it from here

List of featured cases:-

Acumen Marketing Sdn Bhd & Anor v Putrajaya Holdings Sdn Bhd & 5 Ors (2016) 2 MYIPC 29
Admal Sdn Bhd v The New Straits Times Press (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd & Anor (2016) 2 MYIPC 148
Alpha Home Appliance Sdn Bhd v NSB Home Appliance & Anor (2016) 2 MYIPC 541
Alarm & Automation Supplies (M) Sdn Bhd v Control Point Technology Sdn Bhd & Ors (2016) 2 MYIPC 434
Anchorsol Sdn Bhd v Nehemiah Reinforced Soil Sdn Bhd (2016) 2 MYIPC 470
Aresni-Marley (M) Sdn Bhd v Middy Industries Sdn Bhd (No 1) (2016) 2 MYIPC 522
AV Future Link Sdn Bhd v Inno Supply & Services Sdn Bhd (2016) 2 MYIPC 529
Borneo Rainforest Lodge v Bernama-Malaysian National News Agency (2016) 2 MYIPC 465
Cheah Shuang Ho v Public Prosecutor (2016) 2 MYIPC 313
Chong Kak Hau v Public Prosecutor (2016) 2 MYIPC 324
DF Electronics Sdn Bhd & Anor v Teras Ekonomi Sdn Bhd (2016) 2 MYIPC 82
Dura-Mine Sdn Bhd v Elster Metering Limited & Anor (No 1) (2016) 2 MYIPC 189
Dura-Mine Sdn Bhd v Elster Metering Limited & Anor (No 2) (2016) 2 MYIPC 261
Elster Metering Limited & Anor v Damini Corporation Sdn Bhd (2016) 2 MYIPC 103
Elster Metering Limited & Anor v Dura-Mine Sdn Bhd (2016) 2 MYIPC 39
EOneNet.com Sdn Bhd v Lee Chye Yen & 1 Lagi (2016) 2 MYIPC 220
F & N Dairies (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd v Tropicana Products, Inc (2016) 2 MYIPC 485
Genesis Force Sdn Bhd v Sarawak Coal Resources Sdn Bhd & 2 Ors (2016) 2 MYIPC 116
John Kenneth v Naim Land Sdn Bhd (2016) 2 MYIPC 456
Kohwai & Young Publication (M) Sdn Bhd v Lembaga Pengelda Dewan Bahasa and Pustaka (2016) 2 MYIPC 53
Kean Beng Lee Industries (M) Sdn Bhd v Gafri (M) Sdn Bhd & Ors (2016) 2 MYIPC 561
Lee Chye Yen & 1 Lagi v EOneNet.com Sdn Bhd (2016) 2 MYIPC 235
MediaCorp News Pte Ltd & Ors v MediaBanc (Johor Bahru) Sdn Bhd & Ors (2016) 2 MYIPC 431
Microsoft Corporation v Conquest Computer Centre Sdn Bhd (2016) 2 MYIPC 242
Middy Industries & 2 Ors v Aresni-Marley (M) Sdn Bhd (2016) 2 MYIPC 553
MTV Production (M) Sdn Bhd v Winner Music Production Sdn Bhd & 2 Ors (2016) 2 MYIPC 1
Music Authors’ Copyright Protection (MACP) Bhd v A’Famosa Water Theme Park Sdn Bhd (2016) 2 MYIPC 429
Music Authors’ Copyright Protection (MACP) Bhd v Bandar Utama City Sdn Bhd & Ors (2016) 2 MYIPC 453
Ng Beng Huat v Public Prosecutor (2016) 2 MYIPC 393
Onestop Software Solutions (M) Sdn Bhd & Anor v Masteritec Sdn Bhd & 2 Ors (2016) 2 MYIPC 302
Petraware Solutions Sdn Bhd & Anor v Readsoft Aktiebolag & Anor (2016) 2 MYIPC 211
Plastech Industrial Systems Sdn Bhd v N&C Resources Sdn Bhd & Ors (No 1) (2016) 2 MYIPC 440
Plastech Industrial Systems Sdn Bhd v N&C Resources Sdn Bhd & Ors (No 2) (2016) 2 MYIPC 443
Power-Sys Solutions Sdn Bhd & Anor v Amway (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd & Anor (2016) 2 MYIPC 459
Public Performance Malaysia Sdn Bhd & Anor v PRISM Berhad (2016) 2 MYIPC 276
Public Prosecutor v Chan Chun Tat (2016) 2 MYIPC 419
Public Prosecutor v Daniel Dean (2016) 2 MYIPC 339
Public Prosecutor v Loo Hock Eng (2016) 2 MYIPC 348
Public Prosecutor v Sarawanan (2016) 2 MYIPC 353
Public Prosecutor v Sih Swee Peng (2016) 2 MYIPC 381
Public Prosecutor v Sim Kean Aun (2016) 2 MYIPC 358
Public Prosecutor v Tan Chien Hou (2016) 2 MYIPC 398
Public Prosecutor v Teh Lee Ling (2016) 2 MYIPC 408
Public Prosecutor v Than Soe & Ors (2016) 2 MYIPC 367
Public Prosecutor v Yong Mei Khoon Dan Seorang Lagi (2016) 2 MYIPC 378
Radion Trading Sdn Bhd v Sin Besteam Equipment Sdn Bhd & Ors (2016) 2 MYIPC 60
Readsoft Aktiebolag & Anor v Petraware Solutions Sdn Bhd & Anor (2016) 2 MYIPC 167
Rock Records & Tapes Co Ltd v Season Karaoke Sdn Bhd & 3 Ors (2016) 2 MYIPC 292
Sherinna Nur Elena Bt Abdullah v Kent Well Edar Sdn Bhd (2016) 2 MYIPC 137
Symphony Light & Sounds Services Sdn Bhd & Anor v Irwan Shah Bin Abdullah @ DJ Dave & Ors (2016) 2 MYIPC 143
The New Straits Times Press (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd & Anor v Admal Sdn Bhd (2016) 2 MYIPC 198
Ultra Dimension Sdn Bhd v American Home Assurance Company & Anor (2016) 2 MYIPC 7
Ultra Dimension Sdn Bhd v Ketua Pengarah Lembaga Penggalakan Pelancongan Malaysia & 2 Ors (2016) 2 MYIPC 75
Veresdale Ltd v Doerwyn Ltd (2016) 2 MYIPC 563
World Express Mapping Sdn Bhd v Aim Advertising Sdn Bhd & Anor (2016) 2 MYIPC 13
World Express Mapping Sdn Bhd v THR Hotel (Johor) Sdn Bhd & Anor (2016) 2 MYIPC 21

BFM Podcast: CAN EMOTIONS BE COPYRIGHTED?

I was interviewed by BFM Radio to talk about illegal downloading of music, songs etc by internet users and the podcast was published on 28 March 2016.

Read: Pharrell Williams, et al. v. Bridgeport Music, Inc., et al.


In 2013, the family of Marvin Gaye sued Robin Thicke, Pharrell and their label Universal for copyright infringement in a little song called “Blurred Lines.” It was alleged that the song veered too similar in vibe to Gaye’s 1977 track “Got to Give It Up.” Last December, Gaye’s estate won and was awarded the largest damages in music copyright history. Pharrell, Thicke and Universal have since filed an appeal this month. Intellectual property lawyer Foong Cheng Leong explains how much of a song can be copyrighted.

Your browser does not support native audio, but you can download this MP3 to listen on your device.

BFM Podcast: Suing Illegal Downloaders

I was interviewed by BFM Radio to talk about illegal downloading of music, songs etc by internet users on 13 April 2015.


The makers of Dallas Buyers Club, the award winning movie starring Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, have been aggressively going after online pirates in the United States, Australia and now, Singapore. What set their legal strategy apart from similar efforts in the past, what are the implications for privacy rights, and will internet service providers in Malaysia have to surrender subscribers’ information as well if they extend their litigation to our shores? Intellectual property and privacy rights lawyer Foong Cheng Leong explains.

Your browser does not support native audio, but you can download this MP3 to listen on your device.

Proposed Trade Marks And Patents (Including Utility Innovations) Fees Revision

The Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia (MyIPO) is proposing to increase the filing fees of numerous applications in respect of trade mark and patents (including utility innovations) applications. The reason for the increase is due to “The escalating costs of upgrading the ICT system“.

The revision introduces the waiver of certain patents searching fees (online) and the reduction of certain fees for trade marks and patents. Meanwhile for certain patents and trade marks fees, an increase at an average of 5% to 50% is also proposed.

The most notable change for trade mark filing is the combination of application and advertisements fees (proposed rate of RM990 for efiling). The current fees structure requires applicants to pay the application fee (RM330 for efiling) and upon approval, the advertisement fees must be paid (RM600 for efiling). There is no indication as to whether the advertisement fees will be refunded if the application is not accepted.

I do not know whether this proposal will be rolled out and when it will be rolled out.

For more details, please see Consultation Paper – Proposed Trade Marks And Patents (Including Utility Innovations) Fees Revision

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