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Skip Navigation LinksHome > About > Copyright Law > How to Copyright
How to Copyright Your Music
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.

Copyright.gov

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.

Why Register?
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. 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.

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.

Copyrighting Services
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 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 or device.

You 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 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.
  Source:
 http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-general.html#what
 Active on 10/25/2011
More Information:

Copyright.gov
The United States Copyright Office official web site.

Circular 1 - Copyright Basics
An official document that explains the basics of copyright.

Frequently Asked Questions
Copyright.gov official page that answers frequently asked questions.

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