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  • Writer's pictureTina Van

How to Copyright Your Music: Protect Your Art In 3 Easy Steps

Updated: Jan 2


Creating music is a deeply personal and often time-consuming process. Whether you’re a budding songwriter, a talented musician, or a seasoned composer, you’ve probably poured your heart and soul into your musical creations. To safeguard your work and ensure that you receive proper recognition and compensation for your art, it’s crucial to understand how to copyright your music.


In this article, I’ll walk you through some simple steps to protect your art effectively. Let’s jump right in!


Step 1: Document Your Work


Believe it or not, your work is protected as soon as it is created and fixed in tangible form (so no need to worry about the “poor man’s copyright” ways). This includes lyrics, audio recordings or voice memos, and any other materials related to your music. These records can be invaluable in proving your ownership in a case of a copyright dispute. However, registering your copyright provides additional legal benefits, such as the ability to sue for damages in a case of infringement. The most important first step is to make sure your music is recorded and in tangible form.



Step 2: Register Your Copyright


To obtain the best protection for your music, consider registering your copyright with your country’s copyright office. In the U.S., you can register online through the U.S.Copyright Office’s website (www.copyright.gov). This step provides concrete evidence of your ownership and grants you legal rights to enforce your copyright. Here’s how to do this on the U.S. Copyright website:

  1. Visit the Copyright Office Website: Go to the official website of the United States Copyright Office, which is www.copyright.gov.

  2. Start a New Registration: On the website, if you scroll down, you'll see different options under the Features section. For a musical work, select Learn More under Register Your Works.

  3. Create an Account: If you don’t already have one, you’ll need to create an account on the website. The account will allow you to submit your copyright registration online.

  4. Log In: Click on Log in to the Electronic Copyright Office (eCO) Registration System. Log in to your newly created account using your username and password.

  5. Register a Work: Select Standard Application under the Register A Work section to the left. Note: You can register up to 10 different works under one application. To register more than one, you will need to click on Register a Group of Unpublished Works under the Other Registration Options section on the left hand side.

  6. Complete the Application: Fill out the online application form, providing detailed information about your music composition. You’ll need to include the title of the work, the year of creation, the author(s) or creator(s), and other relevant information.

  7. Upload Your Work: You will be prompted to upload a digital copy of your music. Ensure that your music is in a format supported by the Copyright Office’s requirements.

  8. Pay the Registration Fee: There is a fee associated with copyright registration. Currently that fee is $45 for one work and one author or $65 for a group of works, such as an album.

  9. Review & Submit: Carefully review all the information you’ve entered for accuracy. Once you’re satisfied, submit your application. After submission, you’ll receive a confirmation email that includes a submission receipt and a unique tracking number. The copyright office will process your application, which can take several months. You can check the status of your application on their website using the tracking number from your receipt.

  10. Receive Your Registration: Once your music is successfully registered, you will receive a certificate of registration in the mail. This certificate provides legal proof of your copyright. Your work(s) will be protected under copyright law for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. Remember to keep this in a safe place, as it serves as official documentation of your copyright. Keep in mind, while waiting for the registration to be processed, your work is still protected by copyright law, the registration provides the extra legal benefits if you ever need to enforce your rights.

TIP

If you’re planning on copyrighting multiple songs like on an album or EP, you can register them all together when they are done. This will save you money and time instead of registering each individual song!


Step 3: Register With A PRO


Registering with a performing rights organization (PRO) is a vital step as a musician and songwriter to ensure you receive the proper royalties for your music when it is performed publicly or played back on a speaker (at a restaurant for example), digitally streamed, broadcast by a radio, or in order to be licensed for use for media, TV, or film.


Here are the general steps to register with a PRO:

  1. Choose a PRO: Research and select a performing rights organization to join. In the United States, the three major PROs are ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers), BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.), and SESAC. Each PRO has its own membership criteria and benefits, so consider which one aligns best with your needs. SESAC for example, is the only PRO that is invitation only. Here are the websites for each:

ASCAP: www.ascap.com

  1. Check Eligibility: Ensure that you meet the eligibility criteria for the chosen PRO. These criteria may include having original music compositions, having music that is performed or broadcast publicly, and being the copyright owner or having the right to collect royalties on behalf of the copyright owner.

  2. Create an Account & Submit Your Works: Visit the PRO’s website and create an account. After creating your account, you’ll need to register your musical works with the PRO. This typically involves providing details about each composition, such as the title, co-writers (if any), and ownership percentages.

Keep in mind that the specific steps and requirements may vary slightly depending on the PRO you choose, so it’s essential to refer to their respective websites and documentation for the most accurate and up to date information regarding registration and membership.


Conclusion


Copyrighting your art is a vital step in protecting your creative work and ensuring you receive proper recognition and compensation for your efforts. By following these easy steps, you can establish strong legal protections for your music, allowing you to focus on what you do best - making great music.


That’s all I got for you today! I hope this was helpful. Let me know what topics you'd like to see covered in the comments section. Also, if you'd like some free goodies to help you on your way as a creator, feel free to stop by the Free Resources section of the blog page to grab downloadable guides.


Until next time - have fun creating!



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