Creating music can be challenging. If you’re a musician who writes original songs, chances are you’ve spent hours coming up with the perfect words to fit that unique melody that was stuck in your head for weeks. You’ve finally perfected your song, and you’ve spent many more hours in the studio recording and mixing your work to share with the world.
Now that your music is available for listeners, you may want to have your works copyrighted. No one wants their musical ideas stolen. After all, you worked hard to write this song, so it’s a good idea to get it copyrighted.
It’s important to note that as soon as your music is recorded in tangible form, even if it’s a voice memo on your phone, your music is protected by copyright. The music is your intellectual property, and as such, no one can copy your music for their benefit.
But it’s also important to note that you can register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office if you want the full benefits of copyright protection. Registering your copyright means you officially own your work and a copy of your work is on file at the Library of Congress. Your copyright will be on public record, and you will be able to take legal action against people who infringe on your copyright.
How Copyright Protects Your Work
If you’re wondering if you should copyright your music, the short answer is yes. As stated before, once your work is in tangible form, it is by default copyrighted. If you’ve written lyrics down in a notebook, that ink on paper is proof that the work is yours. You could even bring that notebook to court to prove that the work is yours, provided you can prove that you wrote it down before the other person wrote it down.
Lyrics written in a notebook, or a song recorded on your phone, aren’t going to be the most efficient way to protect your work, though. It’s going to be trickier to prove copyright, and it could cost you thousands of dollars in legal fees if the song ownership is disputed. An easier way to go about protecting your work is to get official copyright.
That copyright registers your work in the Library of Congress for a small fee and establishes you as the first author. Thus, should someone try to steal your work and pass it off as their own, you can easily prove that you own the copyright.
Another benefit of copyright is performance royalties. If your music is officially copyrighted, you will receive performance royalties whenever your music is played on the radio, performed in public, recorded by another artist, or used in a movie or show.
When to Register Your Copyright
It’s important to register your copyright as soon as possible. You can register either before or after your music is released to the general public. You cannot take legal action against a counterclaim until you have registered the copyright of your work. The best time for registration is once you’ve completed your recording and submit your work for distribution.
Two Types of Copyright
There are two types of copyright. The first is composition copyright, which covers both the musical song and lyrics. The second is sound recording copyright, which covers the recorded version of your music and also includes lyrics. If you sign a deal with a music label, the label will most likely own the sound recording copyright. However, if you produce and pay for your own recording, the sound recording copyright should belong to you. The composition copyright of the song (and lyrics) usually belongs to the songwriter or publisher.
What is Poor Man’s Copyright?
“Poor man’s copyright” is when the artist sends a copy of the music to himself. It is usually sent through certified mail and left sealed with the date clearly shown on the outside. The idea is to let the government decide, based on the federal postmark when the creation happened. This practice has become obsolete since 2019 when the Supreme Court ruled that all works must be
How Much Does Copyrighting Cost?
If you are copyrighting your work through the U.S. government, it costs $35 for one work, and $55 for multiple works.
How Long Does it Take to Copyright My Music?
It’s easy and quick to copyright music online. Once you have completed the registration process with the Library of Congress, you can expect to receive notice of your completed copyright within 3-9 months.
How To Copyright Your Music
- Gather the things you’ll need:
- Author’s and co-author’s full legal names and country of citizenship
- Rights owner(s) of copyright’s full legal names and addresses
- Dates of completion, release, and location of your work
- Any audio files, if you are getting a sound recording copyright
- Audio files and/or lyrics and chord sheets for composition copyright
- Fill out the proper paperwork
- Composition copyright: Form PA
- Sound recording copyright: Form SR
- Head to copyright.gov and register for an account.
- Navigate to “How do I…” and click on “Register a Copyright.”
- Select “Log in to eCO.”
- Create an account
- Start your copyright registration
- In the side selection panel, select “Register new claim.”
- Follow the directions for registering your work.
- Pay the registration fee.
- Upload the appropriate files for your work.
Once you’ve registered your copyright, you can rest assured that your original work is safe. All that hard work you’ve put into it is protected, and even if someone tries to steal your ideas, you’ll be able to prove your rights without too much trouble or loss of money. It’s easy and reasonably affordable to copyright your work, so don’t hesitate to do it! Just follow the steps above explaining how to copyright music, and you’ll be on your way.