How do you copyright your music? The process is easier than you might imagine, and copyrighting definitely has its privileges. It's worth noting that copyrighting your music is only one step in protecting your work (for instance, registering your works with a PRO - performance rights organization - is also important), but it's certainly a big step. Copyrighting your music isn't hard or expensive. It's simply a matter of filling out some paperwork, either digitally or on paper, and submitting your claim. Note that the process described here applies to US copyrights.
Gather the information you'll need to complete the registration process. You can copyright entire albums or individual songs, but note that the price is same for each. In other words, it costs you the same to copyright entire 14 track album and all the works contained on that album as it would to copyright one single from the album. Go for bulk when you can to keep the price down.
You'll need the album/song titles handy to complete the process.
Navigate to the US Copyright Office website and decide if you're going to complete the registration online using the eCo System or if you want to download and print the forms to mail in the Copyright Office (use Form CO).
Using the online system is quicker and cheaper. Check the Copyright Office website for current pricing.
Complete the registration forms. Whether you are using the online system or the paper forms, you'll find complete instructions on the form to walk you through the process. Here is some terminology you will need to know:
- Type of Copyright - Sound Recording
- Title of Work - Name of Your Album or Song.
- Contents Title - If you're registering an multi-track recording, each song should be listed as a separate Contents Title
Use the Limitations of Claim part of the form if your album contains any cover songs. The form will allow you to exclude the music, the lyrics or both the music and lyrics. Be sure to do this for any song on your album for which you do not have rights to full and clear copyright.
Submit your completed forms. Using the online system, once you submit your forms, you will receive a receipt the acts as proof of your copyright application and instructions for mailing in your CDs to the Copyright Office. If you're using paper forms, you will mail the completed forms with your CDs to the office on the application. Note that processing can take six months or more, but if you keep your receipt from submitting your form or proof of mailing the forms (such as a certified mail slip or Fed Ex receipt), then you will have proof of the date you actually registered your copyright.