Copyright Your Music: The Why and How

Copyright Your Music: The Why and How

By NationWide Source
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

So, you’d like to register your band’s songs as intellectual property? This is a good idea, especially if your songs are good enough that people might want to use (or steal) them. Copyrighting your music is a simple and effective process for protecting your babies.

Why Copyright Your Music?

The copyright on your music protects you if somebody steals your idea and passes it off as their own. Should this happen, it is your responsibility to file a law suit; you can use your copyright registration to prove that you are the intellectual owner of the music.

A Copyrighting Fairytale

There’s a fairytale about copyrighting that goes something like this: Mail a copy of the CD to yourself before it’s available to the public. Then, if copyright issues arise, you can in court submit the post office’s date stamp on the package as proof that you are the original creator… all for the cost of one stamp!

While this is certainly clever, it’s also flawed. Just because you mail something doesn’t make it yours, and it is possible that you switched the contents of the package at a later date. In short, this method is ineffective at protecting yourself. So, what can you do? Go through the official channel.

How to Copyright Music

The cost of copyrighting an entire CD through the U.S. Copyright Office is just $35 (if done electronically). Processing the copyright application online immediately creates a time stamp, and it is a faster method of registration.You can also submit your application through the mail, but you’ll have to scrape up another $30; physical applications cost $65. While this is more than the cost of a stamp, it’s still enough of a bargain that most musicians can afford to do it.

The good news is that you can copyrighting several songs in a submission, as long as they are being registered to the same individual or group of individuals. You can copyright songs individually (if you really want to, or if the members of your band want each song’s copyright registered to the individual who wrote it), but each submission costs $35. While the most cost-effective way of copyrighting music is to wait until you have several songs or a whole album ready to submit, doing so can leave your songs unprotected in the meantime.

The decisions about whether or not to copyright, and when to do so, are those you’ll have to make at some point in your music career.

Have you already done this? Did you copyright each song separately as they were ready, or did you copyright several at once? If you haven’t copyrighted your music, what is holding you back?

See also: Music and Royalties: What You Should KnowThe Why and How of Music Licensing


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