As active musicians we always had this challenge that you might know very well: to build our fan base, we published and distributed our songs quite generously via Soundcloud, via YouTube, via mail campaigns, you name it. And we always had this bad feeling: what happens if someone steals our ideas, our hook-lines, pieces of our lyrics, or even entire songs? Will we be well enough equipped to claim our copyright?
We searched for a legally valid, broadly accepted, long-time seal on our creative works but simple and cheap, no expensive notary services and surely not a service where you must create accounts, do regular payments, and then hope that the provider will still exist when you may finally need its support. We wanted something as simple as possible, but we didn’t find it. So, we created this service ourselves and called it Regstones (a short form for “register tones”).
Nearly all countries in the world have signed off the so-called Berne Convention , which means that in these countries your creative works (songs, melodies, lyrics…) are enjoying copyright protection by nature. You will only need to evidence that you created this art first. But that’s the tricky thing: how to do this, also for disputes that might occur in years from now? Simple date entries of recording files are no proof, everybody can change system time easily. Postal timestamps on letters used to send your CD to yourself do not have legal proof capability neither , as it is too easy to produce a simple physical stamp. The need is for a sufficiently strong, long-time valid, and legally accepted evidence.
Musicians in the US: please note that you have a special national context with your copyright office. We do not claim to replace the services it offers.
Regstones delivers you a long-term valid “I have my art already now” evidence. On our site you enter your identity (name and date of birth) and your song name reference. Then you select a file representing your art (e.g. your entire song as mp3 or your partitions, lyrics or similar as pdf or word file). Our service then calculates a unique digital fingerprint of your respective file, in a process that cannot be reverse-engineered (the technical term is “hashing”, we use the SHA-256 algorithm). We combine this fingerprint and your identity into a pdf file, and let this pdf file immediately digitally sign and timestamp by a trust service provider of the European Union, one of the few organizations worldwide who show certified compliance with the eIDAS regulation. The signature applied is LTV-enabled (LTV = “Long-Term Validation”). With this, the document can confirm at any time in the future, in spite of technological and other advances, that the signature and all related certificates were valid at the time of the applied timestamp , and that the content of the pdf has not been altered since its signature at the stamped time, which establishes the evidence that you indeed had your art created already at this time. The LTV quality of the signature allows you to use or to archive each evidence document for many years, even many decades.
When you receive the evidence pdf, we recommend strongly that you store it safely (e.g. on a memory stick, on a google drive or similar), and that you keep the very same file that you used for our service; ideally store it next to the evidence document. Please note: you MUST keep the very same file that you used for our service, as your evidence document will only establish the copyright evidence in combination with that file. Any other file, even if only one bit is different, would produce a different fingerprint and will therefore not allow you to demonstrate later that your file is indeed the timestamped one.
In case of a future conflict about your copyright, you need to be able to assemble enough evidence to demonstrate that you created this art first. Therefore, you need to reassure that your performance rights association can and will support your claim in case of a conflict. This will require that you have early on submitted your partitions or songs, AND the organization is ready to hand out this evidence to support your case, AND (!) you are still member of this association in that future moment. Regarding the GEMA in particular, note that this association is obliged to neutrality in case of copyright conflicts. You can read more in the GEMA FAQs (unfortunately only available in German).
If you want to be independent of all these limitations, you should consider our service.
YouTube adds a rough timestamp to your uploaded file (e.g. “uploaded 4 years ago”). No one will probably try to claim that YouTube is corrupting timestamps on purpose, so the assigned timestamps will be valuable in case of a legal dispute. However please consider two disadvantages: the first one is, that the timestamps are of rough nature, so looking backward you will not know which of two versions was uploaded first in a given year, the second is, that you are merging here your publications strategy and your legal protection in other words, if you want to change a previously uploaded version (because you improved the lyrics, have found better musicians, you simply dislike the former version etc.), you will lose your initial timestamp for good as it will be replaced by the new timestamp. Most likely you are also writing songs, that you are not immediately producing or uploading. We want to offer you with Regstones a simple and low-cost possibility to document your copyright independently from your publication strategy.
What you will need is a seal that is a) not limited in time and b) legally qualified, i.e. which is accepted as strong evidence in a legal case. The notary as a natural person confirms the existence of your work at the date where he/she sees it. The trust in the correctness of this confirmation is based on the general trust into the status and role of the notary, stemming from his or her official oath.
The digital seals used by Regstones also fulfil both requirements, based on compelling technical facts stemming from their quality of being fully compliant with the norms RFC 3161, ETSI EN 319 421, with the eIDAS regulation, and their LTV enablement. Documents signed by these standards will report that they haven’t been altered since the application of the seal, which is a technical proof that the content of the document exists since the timestamped time. There are no relevant differences for both types of seal for the use within your copyright management.
When you use digital timestamps and signatures, you shall consider two aspects: the first one is, to what extent the correctness of a timestamp will be acknowledged. Thanks to established standards (like RFC3161) this should now be expected with all professional timestamp providers, and clearly is a necessary condition for any usage of digital timestamps. The second aspect is much more complex and important, and a clear delineation is visible among signature providers. It is about HOW LONG a timestamp or a signature is VALID. All certificates that produce timestamps or signatures have an expiration date. This is required to make it very hard to possible attackers to crack the certificate for producing backdated, false signatures. Yet, signatures and timestamps lose their legal value upon expiration of the underlying certificate, which would present an issue for topics like copyright seals that must be valid for very long times. Therefore, two concepts have been developed to counter this shortage: The first one is, to simply apply a new, fresh signature onto the document that carries the expiring signature. This concept is of course completely unusable for you you shall be musician, not an administrator of signature renewals. That’s why the second concept is so much more of interest for you: the so-called “LTV” enablement of signatures, that also are used by Regstones. The bright idea behind this concept is, that all relevant information that document the validity of all certificates, signatures, and timestamps at the timestamped time are embedded in the signed document itself, which secures unlimited validity - a very elegant solution.
Well, congratulations! Firstly, because your song was apparently so ‘hot’ that it stimulated others to be maybe a bit too much inspired of it. And secondly and especially, if you have used our service upon creating your art. So, when you become aware of a possible abuse of your copyright, you need to address the situation appropriately, and you will likely be required to put your evidence document and your initial file (which generated the digital fingerprint contained in the pdf) on the table. The hash will then be reproduced out of your file and be compared with the timestamped hash in your evidence document, to verify that both hashes are indeed identical. Our YouTube channel includes a short manual on how to re-create the hash. Our service is about equipping you now for such potential situations, yet does not expand into legal advice or counsel activities during such a claim process.