OK, so you have created a dope masterpiece of a song(s), and you feel the world should hear it. As with anything that is of value, you should protect it! Therefore, you will probably want to copyright it so that someone else can’t steal the credit (and any potential profits!).
While your track (including music and lyrics) is automatically copyrighted as soon as you record them, you will need to register with the U.S. Copyright Office to get the benefits of full protection – including being able to sue someone who tries to infringe on your copyright in any way.
Copyright law allows you to copyright music, lyrics, or both. You can also copyright different versions of the same song (live, acoustic, remix?), but the song has to have been your original work.
You can’t copyright song titles or small snippets like chord progressions, but you can copyright an actual audio recording of your song as well as the song itself.
What You Get
Your copyright will offer you a few exclusive rights to your song or recording, including:
- Being able to produce and distribute copies of the song on sheet music (this was once a big thing!), records, tapes, CDs, and certain digital media. This includes the right to make and distribute the first audio recording of your tune. Once you have distributed this first recording, other people can make and distribute additional recordings. Still, they will need to get a mechanical license fee for the track and pay you a royalty fee. To use the song on a video or movie, they must pay you and get a synchronization license.
- You will have the right to create derivative works based on your track, including remixes.
- You will have the exclusive right to perform the track or allow others to perform it. You should also get royalties if your song is played to an audience, and the performer will need a public performance license. This includes live performances as well as radio, television, online, or via a streaming service.
- You also have exclusive rights to display the track.
How To Get A Copyright?
- The first thing you need to do is record your song in a ‘tangible medium.’ That can mean writing it down, recording it in a studio, a CD or even on your phone. Basically, you can’t copyright it if it is just in your head!
- Secondly, get an account at the U.S. Copyright Office Website. Yes, this will cost some money, but it is cheaper if you register online rather than sending your copyright by mail. You can still send a copy of your work in the mail but again register online at copyright.gov. Once you are there, click on ‘register a copyright’ and then click ‘log into eCO’ – from there, you’ll be able to login or register.
- You’ve got your account sorted, so now you need to fill out the online copyright registration forms (you can register on paper with Form PA, but why bother?). Take your time to make sure you get the details filled in duly!
- As we mentioned, copyrighting a song isn’t free (it’s the music business, right?). So, you’ll need to use a credit or debit card, an ACH transfer, or a copyright office deposit account to pay the registration fee. If you decided to register on paper, you would need to include a check or money order. Online registration is about half the price of paper registration, due to processing costs, or some such chat.
- Submit a copy of your song. Post your CD, sheet music or other physical copy, or upload the track digitally – check the copyright office website for exact details of how many and what types of copy you must send for published and unpublished tracks.
- Wait and wait some more. It takes around three to five months for an electronic copyright registration to be processed and seven to ten months for mailed applications. And given the cost and the time taken, it is worth getting your registration right (step 3 above). However, once it is processed, you will have taken a strong step towards protecting your intellectual property – and hopefully, getting paid!