“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
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
can’t 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 infromation 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
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 or device.
don't 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 time.
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
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 10/25/2011