How to Copyright Music: Protect Your Music

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Why Do I Need to Know How to Copyright My Music? Don’t I Already Own It?

You need to know how to copyright music because you don’t own your music until you do. Technically, yes you do own the copyright of your song simply by writing it. But, registering it with the copyright office legally acknowledges the date of the creation of your song.

What does that Mean?

Say you wrote a song and someone stole it and got it copyrighted. A month later, you submitted the song to get copyrighted. Well, since the other person submitted it first, they own the rights to your song.

Also, without legally copyrighting your music, you cannot take anyone to court for using your music. This is why you need to know how to copyright music! There are specific exclusive rights that your copyright will include.

Musical Copyright Gives the Composer these Exclusive Rights:
  • Derivative Works: The right to create derivative works.
  • Public Performance: The right to perform the song.
  • Distribution: The right to distribute the song.
  • Reproduction: The right to reproduce the song.
Musical Copyright Does Not Include:
  • Chord progressions
  • The overall idea/concept of your song
  • The title
  • Short phrases
Every Recorded Piece Has Two Separate Copyrights
  •      The Composition of the music. This includes the song’s music and lyrics. The songwriter and/or publisher own this copyright.
  •      The particular sound recording of a song. (Master Recording) The artist and/or label own this copyright.
How to Copyright Music:
  • Head to copyright.gov
  • You can print the forms from this site and mail them in, or you can fill them out online. There are two forms to choose from based on the copyright you are looking for.
  • Form SR (Sound Recordings): “Use Form SR for registration of published or unpublished sound recordings. Form SR should be used when the copyright claim is limited to the sound recording itself, and it may also be used where the same copyright claimant is seeking simultaneous registration of the underlying musical, dramatic, or literary work embodied in the phonorecord.” (Form SR) You can get the form SR here.
  • Form PA (Performing Arts): “Use Form PA for registration of published or unpublished works of the performing arts. This class includes works prepared for the purpose of being “performed” directly before an audience or indirectly “by means of any device or process.”Works of the performing arts include; (1) musical works, including any accompanying words; (2) dramatic works, including any accompanying music; (3) pantomimes and choreographic works; and (4) motion pictures and other audiovisual works.” (Form PA) You can get the Form PA here.
When Should I Copyright My Music?

Before you submit your music anywhere you need to get it copyrighted. Before you play it publicly, you need to get it copyrighted. You want to own your music before you let others hear it.

How Much Will a Copyright Cost?

You have to pay per copyright form you fill out. You can lump your songs into one form to save money.
So how much does one copyright form cost?

  • $35 (single application) or $55 (standard application) if you file online
  • $85 if you mail it in
    *These fees are always subject to change so double check the prices here.
How to Copyright Music for a Lower Price

You may have heard of the “Poor Man’s Copyright“. If you haven’t it’s where you send yourself your song via registered mail instead of getting a copyright from the Copyright Office. This actually has no legal weight.

The only “cheaper alternative” is to copyright several songs (or all of your songs) on one form.

Creative Commons Copyright

Do you know how to copyright music when you want to give it away for free? Creative Commons Copyright is a copyright that allows people to download your song for free. They can then use it in any way they like as long as they credit you.

This is a great way to help you market your music when you’re first starting out.

You can sign up for a creative commons license here.

If you choose to get a creative commons license, you can submit your song to creative commons sites. These sites include Jamendo, Frostwire, and Free Music Archive. Once you upload your music to these sites, you will begin to see downloads.

What About a Patent or a Trademark? Are they the Same as a Copyright?

No, a copyright protects originals works of authorship, such as songwriting.

A patent protects inventions or discoveries.

A trademark protects words, phrases, symbols in addition to designs. You should get a trademark on your artist/band name and logo. You can read more about trademarks here. 

Do I Have to Re-Submit My Song to Copyright if I Change Part of the Song?

Well, it depends.
If you submitted your song as “unpublished”, then you can register the changes and will not have to re-submit the song.
If you submitted your song as “published”, then you do need to re-submit the song for copyright.

How Do I Collect My Royalties?

To collect royalties for public performances (this includes fees paid by; radio stations, businesses, restaurants, concert venues, bars, nightclubs, sports arenas, bowling alleys, malls, shopping centers, amusement parks, and colleges/universities) you need to register with a Performance Rights Organization (PRO). Once you copyright your music, the next step would be to register with a PRO, if you’re not registered with one already.

What About Cover Songs? Is Cover Music Illegal? Can I Get Paid for Cover Music?

To collect money for a cover song you need a mechanical license. To collect money for a cover music video, you need a mechanical license AND a synchronization license. But, this is only for YouTube. Consequently, there is no way to legally release a cover music video on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or Twitter.

Conclusion

Now that you know how to copyright music, go copyright your music! So, what are you waiting for?

Share this article with your music friends so they can know how to copyright music too!

The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice provided by an attorney of your choosing. TuneGO, Inc. does not warrant or represent that the information in this post is accurate for all people or in all circumstances and encourages you to seek qualified legal counsel in all instances. TuneGO, Inc. will not be responsible for your reliance on any information contained in this article.

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