Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Quick Guide To Copyrighting Your Music

Registration is NOT required for a valid copyright.

First, understand that you don't need to register your copyright with the United States Copyright Office in order to have a valid copyright. You have a valid copyright as soon as your song or sound recording is "fixed in a tangible medium of expression". This is a term used by the Copyright Act and means that your song or sound recording must be written down or recorded.

Although registration with the Copyright Office is not required to have a valid copyright, registration does provide several benefits:

* the establishment of a public record and evidence
of your claim as the valid copyright owner of your
songs and sound recordings

* the ability to file a federal lawsuit against someone
who uses your song or sound recording without your

* eligibility to receive statutory damages and attorneys'
fees in the event you file and win a copyright
infringement lawsuit


Registering your copyright is fairly straightforward. To register your copyright, you must send three items in the same package to the Copyright Office:

1) a completed application

2) A deposit of your song or sound recording

3) the filing fee (currently $30)

It will take the Copyright Office approximately six months to process your application and send you a certificate of registration. However, the effective date or your registration is the date on which the Copyright Office receives your completed application package.


Form PA is for filing a copyright of the song itself: the melody and lyrics, and chords. This is the "circle C" symbol: ©.

Form SR is to file a copyright on the sound recording. Usually the record label will do this, as it usually 'owns' the masters to the recording. This is the "circle P" symbol: (P). This 'protects' the actual recording (and recorded arrangement) of the song.

Form CA is to make a correction to a Form PA. If the song is significantly updated (musically, lyrically or otherwise. e.g. new co-writer) and has been previously filed for copyright, then Form CA should be used. This form can also be employed to 'break out' the individual titles within a song collection under copyright.

The Copyright Office will give you free applications along with detailed instructions for completing them. You can get the forms from the Copyright Office's internet site ( You can also request the forms by calling the Copyright Office's forms and publication hotline at 202-707-9100, or by writing to the Copyright Office
at the following address:

Library of Congress
Copyright Office
101 Independence Avenue, SE,
Washington, DC 20559

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