Just like any other creative work, music gets a copyright as soon as you record or notate it; no other formalities are needed. Keep in mind that if you perform your song in front of people from memory but haven’t written down the words or the chords or recorded it, then your song is not protected by copyright since it’s still not fixed in a tangible medium.
You can register your music via the eCO Online System on the Copyright Office’s website.
Registration costs $35, but for a wide variety of musical works (up to 20 songs) can be part of the same copyrighted work for one fee.
If you are only interested in registering the underlying or musical composition, but not the actual recording, Form PA should be used. Form PA is used for performing arts works, which includes musical works and generally lots of other types of audiovisual works, including motion pictures.
Use Form SR if you want to register sound recordings. Note that registering a sound recording doesn't have the effect of registering the underlying words or musical composition of a song. If you use Form SR, you are only registering the specific sounds on that recording of that particular performance.
Additionally, if you own both the composition and the sound recording, you can register both at once using Form SR. Form SR should be used in tandem with Form PA if you want to register both the sound recording and the musical composition. You may make a single registration using Form SR only if the copyright claimant is the same for both the sound recording and the musical composition (i.e. if, in addition to performing the song on the recording, you also wrote the song's lyrics and musical composition). Keep in mind, however, that if you refuse to put your music out there because you live in fear of having your music copied, that may defeat the purpose of making music in the first place.
* You’ll want to register your music as a ‘sound recording’ as this kind of registration includes not only the performance, but the underlying music itself.
* Under ‘Title of Work’ add the name of your CD first and set the ‘Type’ as ‘Title of work being registered.’ Then list your song titles and set the ‘Type’ for those as ‘Contents Title.’ So the album name is the ‘Title,’ the individual songs are the ‘Contents.’
* If you have cover songs on your album, you’ll exclude those under the ‘Limitation of Claim’ section. For example, if track 7 on your CD is a cover tune, under ‘Material Excluded’ check the boxes for ‘Music’ and ‘Lyrics’ (if you have lyrics) and then in the space for ‘Other’ indicate ‘Track 7.’ Then under ‘New Material Included’ check all the boxes and under ‘Other’ list the track numbers for your original songs. So here you specify what tracks to exclude for copyright registration (because they belong to someone else) and which tracks to register under your own name. If all the songs on your album are original, you can skip this section entirely.”
Be smart, be safe, work hard and have fun. Then success (whatever that means to you) may follow. If you have any questions about copyrighting your music, your rights as a musician distributing your work online, or the effect of your actions or contractual relationships with a company like a record label, feel free to contact New Media Rights via our contact form to find out whether you qualify for free or reduced fee legal services. We also offer competitive full fee legal services on a selective basis. For more information on the services we provide click here.
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