View Full Version : Copyrighting music

06-03-2003, 10:02 AM
Ok, ive been playing in a band for about 6 months now (finally one that's comitted) and i think we have got some really cool stuff which we obviously want to get playing for others and getting it out there. I wonder if any of you fellas could help with some information regarding copyrighting your material.

Here's what ive heard here and there, although i most likely stand to be corrected so help me out here. Apparently as soon as the material is down on paper or recorded like on tape or something it's automatically copyrighted? Proving this is another matter though so another guy i spoke to said one of the best ways to do it is record some material on tape/cd/etc and then mail it to yourself and dont open it. Waddya think?

I really have little idea about the legalities of things like this so any links or information is much appreciated. Thx guys.


06-03-2003, 04:17 PM
I've read many times that mailing it to yourself won't stand up in court since envelopes can be steamed open and resealed. It doesn't cost much to copyright your music, something like $20 a song. Or you could copyright a bunch of songs together under the same copyright. I'm not sure of all the technical stuff about this, but you could check out books about this at the library. If your music is really worth it, spending a few dollars isn't a big deal.

The Bash
06-03-2003, 05:19 PM

There's a link to the LBC

And yes you can copyright a collection under one form.
This is cheaper, however the one drawback is a publisher often dosen't want to search through a entire collection, plus everythings listed under the same code. If your gonna sell your stuff (write for others) it's easier (and cost more) to label each tune seperate.

The Bash
06-03-2003, 06:08 PM
I should add the same goes for recording your own music.
It's easier to track down the LBC number if it's listed seperatly.
I'd lists em in a collection then when the time comes recopyright those tunes as a seperate entry.

03-02-2006, 09:46 AM
Just got my multi-track hard disk digital recorder, and some songs are coming to fruition (finally!). So I've checked this out...
...but was wondering if anybody actually had their song copyrighted?
I just had a few Q's on the basic procedure so I get it right the first time.
1) I want to copyright each song by itself. Can I send a PowerTab of the music with a CD of the recording?
2) Does the PowerTab need to include everything transcribed (all instruments, drums, vocal)?
3) The current fee is $30 a song...a complete album would require about 10 songs, so the cost quickly becomes prohibitive. Does copyrighting an entire CD cover each song individually if I include the music to each song as well?
Anyway, I know this gets brought up frequently, but there usually aren't complete answers...and I know some of you guys have gone through this process.
Thanks in advance for any help.

03-02-2006, 01:57 PM
Copyright is still a very gray area (at least in the US).

By recording or writing down a song, you have "fixed" it and that grants you 99.9% ownership and copyright protection.

If you can prove that you "fixed" the song prior to the one infringing on your copyright, you will win in court, but there's a catch.

You need that 0.01% that registering with the copyright office gives you in order to collect any monetary damages caused by any infringement.

I'm curious, too, to see if placing an entire album under one copyright protects the individual songs.. anybody?

03-02-2006, 02:39 PM
To my knowledge, registering a bunch of songs on a CD will protect them individually, in the US.

If you read the US Copyright Office information circular (http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ50.html) on registering musical works, you'll find this:

Collections of Music

Unpublished Collections

Two or more unpublished songs, song lyrics, or other musical works may be registered with one application and fee, but only under certain conditions stated in the Copyright Office regulations. One of those conditions is that the copyright owner or owners must be the same for all the songs. Copyright belongs to the author and can be transferred only by a written agreement or other legal means. If there has been no transfer and the songs are by different authors, this copyright ownership requirement has not been met. An additional requirement is that there must always be at least one author common to all the songs, even if there has been a transfer of ownership.

In the following examples, the musical works can be registered with one application:

Al wrote the music and Sue wrote the lyrics to each of eight songs.
Sue wrote the music and Al and Larry wrote the lyrics to each of four songs.
In the following examples, the musical works cannot be registered with one application:

Al wrote the lyrics and music to three songs and cowrote lyrics and music to four songs with Sue. (No transfer has taken place.)
Sue wrote the music for six songs; Al wrote the lyrics to two of the songs, and Larry wrote the lyrics to four of the songs.
Space 1 of the application should give a collection title. You may also give the individual titles. The collection title should also appear on the deposit copy or phonorecord.

Space 2 of the application should name all the individuals who contributed authorship to the musical works in the collection. If the authors are members of a performing group, you may state this after each name. Naming only a performing group as author does not clearly identify the authors.

When a group of unpublished works is registered as a collection, only the collection title will appear in the catalogs and indexes of the Copyright Office. Individual titles will appear in Copyright Office records only if each work is registered separately or if an application for supplementary registration is submitted to specify the individual titles in a collection. An application for supplementary registration may not be submitted until a certificate of registration has been issued for the collection. For more information on supplementary registration, please request Circular 8, "Supplementary Copyright Registration," and application Form CA.

That suggests to me that you can register a collection, and that the individual songs in the collection will be protected. However, you would only be able to find your registration by searching under the name of the collection.

Also, the link given in the post above is for registering a sound recording, that is, a CD, rather that for registering a song. The link for info on registering songs themselves is here: http://www.copyright.gov/register/performing.html

03-02-2006, 03:46 PM
Way to research Wonderdog :)

Thanks! I'll be using this info soon myself....

03-03-2006, 03:05 PM
The very concept of copyright is woefully misunderstood, and it's worth noting that copyrigth law in the US (where I am) differs from, say, Africa (where the original poster was).

Technically speaking, there is no such thing as "copyrighting" a song or anything else. You have a "right to copy" (copyright) your own creations at the moment of creation. Thus you are not "copyrighting" your song when you fill out an SR or PA or TX form - you are registering your claim for exclusive (with qualification) right to copy of a particular work with the Library of Congress (via the Copyright Office).

That said, everyone (including the copyright office and IP attornies) use terms like "copyrighted" & "copywriting" all the time.

I've read many times that mailing it to yourself won't stand up in court since envelopes can be steamed open and resealed.
This is half correct. The reason, however, has nothing to do with opening envelopes. To sue for copyright infringement, you must file in federal court. Said court demands a pre-requisite registration to accept a case. In essence, it's a money thing.

I want to copyright each song by itself.
Don't bother. Fill out an SR form and send the entire CD. Each song is then covered by default.

By recording or writing down a song, you have "fixed" it and that grants you 99.9% ownership and copyright protection.
99.9%? No, you get 100%...but there are qualifications on the exclusivity. These qualifications exists because:

1) No one creates in a vacuum (our work, whether we like to admit it or not, stands firmly on the genius of those before us), and...

2) Monopolies are illegal in the US, and your exclusivity is necessarily viewed as a monopoly on that work granted by the federal government, and...

3) We are discussing copyright, which is a form of Intellectual Propert, which stands distinct from Tangible Property (like a car, a guitar, or the physical paper or CD on which a COPY of a song resides).

This is why, for example, when people say downloading is stealing, they are demonstrably and radically mistaken. It is also why Thomas Jefferson (yeah, the same guy who was author of the Declaration of Independence and the 3rd president of the US) was not only opposed to copyright, but ALL forms of government-granted IP protection.

But that is another topic altogether....(no "Airplane" jokes, please)

03-03-2006, 03:56 PM
99.9%? No, you get 100%...but there are qualifications on the exclusivity.

A major part of my Music Business degree was spent on copyright law study and from the way it was presented, you have 100% when you register. If you don't, it's remotely (0.01%) possible for someone to sneak in and register it before you and, unless you can abolutely prove that you "fixed" it before them, you don't have a case.

Even if you can prove it, it will be hard to get a judgement, let alone monetary damages unless you register the work in question.

That said, everything in copyright is a gray area...

03-04-2006, 12:42 AM
Thanks for all the great replies. Not too worried about my work being the next Led Zeppelin IV...but you never know!