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How To Copyright Music

Music and Sound Recording Copyright




 

How To Copyright Music | Music Copyright

Page updated 3/1/2016

 

Music Copyright Tips - As musicians grow in their career they may eventually start to write and record music at some point.  Songwriting is a natural progression for a musician and recording music can be both fun and possibly lucrative in the future.  There are many avenues to sell music including selling music at gigs, online, and digital distribution.  Once your original music is recorded and mixed professionally, it is time to think about the steps needed to copyright your sound recording. 

Music copyright can be a little overwhelming at first simply because it is not always thought about by musicians until later in their career.  The good news is it is not that difficult to get your original music copyrighted.  The US government has set up a useful website to learn more about the process.  Typically all you will need to do is pay the fee, upload / send your music to the United States Copyright Office, and fill out the necessary form. 

The US Copyright Office has now made it even easier and quicker to copyright original sound recordings.  They have started to accept electronic submissions through their website which is www.copyright.gov.  The fee is also less if you submit your music electronically rather than submitting the paper form.  While you can still use both ways to submit your sound recordings, the fee is much less for electronic submission. 

While copyright is implied once you create an original sound recording, it is still in your best interest to file for copyright of sound recordings.  The main reason to file would be if you ever need to file an infringement lawsuit.  If you have filed for a copyright, you would have a public record of your music copyright.  Also, if you ever decide to make your music available for sale through Digital Distribution (ex: CDBaby or Tunecore), a copyright registration number may need to be provided.  This lets the company know that the music is an original work and allows for possible future digital distribution of your original music work.  Digital Distribution is basically the ability to sell your music through online resources like ITunes or Amazon.

 

Music Copyright Websites and Resources

Copyright Forms - Listing of Paper Registration Forms for US Copyright

  • Form SR - Sound Recordings Copyright Form - Music Recordings Copyright
  • Form PA - Performing Arts Copyright Form
  • Form VA - Visual Arts Copyright Form
  • Form TX - Literary Copyright Form

If you decide to file paper forms and mail in your music, the fee is typically more than filing electronically.  Visit the How To Register A Work page for more details. 

Typical Information Needed for Music Copyright Forms

  • Name of Author / Author's of Work
    • Author's Date of Birth
    • Author's Nationality or Domicile
    • Nature of Authorship
  • Title of Work
  • Year and Date of Completion of work
  • Nation of Publication
  • Has Material been Previously Registered
  • Derivative Work or Compilation
  • Name and Address for Correspondence
  • Signature
  • Send / Upload the Sound recording or Original Work

 

Each copyright form includes detailed instructions, so don't worry if you are not sure about some of the items above.  Overall electronic submission should get you a quicker response for the US copyright office, but be aware that your response time depends on the offices back log at the time. 

Hopefully this information gives you a little better feel for the music copyright process.  Visit the links above for more information on copyright of sound recordings.