“Your work is under copyright
protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form. Many choose to register their works
because they wish to have the facts of their copyright on the public record and
have a certificate of registration.”
Copyrighting Your Music
To gain the protections of the Copyright Law
you need to copyright your music. Luckily, this is really easy to do. In fact, music
is automatically copyrighted the moment you create it in a tangible medium, like
on paper or on audio recording. That's right. All
you have to do is write your original song down on paper, or record it, and you
own the copyright. Then you are protected by law and others cannot use your song
without your permission.
Registration is Different
One common misconception is that you copyright your music with the United States
Copyright Office. The truth is that your stuff is automatically copyrighted the
moment you record it on a tangible medium. What the Copyright Office provides is
not the copyright itself, but a certificate of registration of your copyright. This
is a formal document issued directly from the Copyright Office to you that certifies
that you are the owner of a work and that they have a record of your ownership on
file at the Library of Congress.
We recommend you register your works with the Copyright Office. If you do, you will
have "prima facie" evidence that you were the first to create the work.
"Prima facie" is a legal term. It means that the other side bears the
burden of proof to prove that the work is not yours.
How to Register Your Copyright
Registration is affordable and not that hard. As of this writing, registration costs
$35 and can be completed online at
Copyright.gov works fine, but it is not entirely user friendly. Perhaps for that
reason, other services have popped up that offer to copyright your music for you.
They charge roughly $100 plus the $35 filing fee. They will ask the same questions,
(although perhaps in a way that is simpler to understand), and then forward your
information on to the Copyright Office for registration. Note that whether you file
directly at Copyright.gov or with a third party agency, the copyright registration
process and certificate will be the same. That's because the only entity that
can issue your certificate is the Copyright Office. You will still need to wait
several months for your certificate of registration to arrive in the mail.
From the Copyright Office...
Copyright.gov is The official web site of the United States Copyright Office. It
is a good resource for information about Copyright. The following excerpt was taken
from their site, our comments in green:
What Is Copyright?
Copyright is a form of protection
grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original
works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both
published and unpublished works.
This means that only you have certain rights
regarding your creation.
When is my work protected?
Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a
tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine
have to register your work with the Copyright office to be protected. This
is a common misconception. Still, you have to write it down. No matter how
original a melody, if it's only in your head it is not copyrighted. If you sing
it publicly, the first person to write it down will own it.
Do I have to register with the Copyright office to be protected?
No. In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from
the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish
to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work.
Your work is copyrighted as soon as you write it down. However,
if ever you need to sue for damages, you'll need to register your work at that
Why should I register my work if copyright protection is automatic?
Registration is recommended for a number of reasons. Many choose
to register their works because they wish to have the facts of their copyright on
the public record and have a certificate of registration. Registered works may be
eligible for statutory damages and attorney's fees in successful litigation.
Finally, if registration occurs within 5 years of publication, it is considered
prima facie evidence in a court of law.
We recommend you register as
soon as you complete your creation. That way you will have "prima facie"
evidence that you were the first to create the work. "Prima facie" is
a legal term. It means that the other side bears the burden of proof to prove that
the work is not yours. Registration is affordable and not that hard. As of
this writing, registration costs $35 and can easily be completed online at copyright.gov.
I’ve heard about a "poor man’s copyright." What is it?
The practice of sending a copy of your own work to yourself is
sometimes called a “poor man’s copyright.” There is no provision in the copyright
law regarding any such type of protection, and it is not a substitute for registration.
The idea here is that a federal postmark on a sealed envelope
with your creation inside validates the date of creation. This is a fine idea.
But again, you will eventually need to register your work if ever you have to sue
for damages. To play it safe, we recommend registering your works soon after
you create them.
Active on 1/7/2016