to Copyright Music
Article by David Nevue - Updated March 2010
Back to Internet Music Promotion 101
Do I Copyright My Music?
a question I get asked a lot
here at the Music Biz Academy.
And so, I decided I might as
well write a formal article
the issue in detail in my book,
to Promote Your Music Successfully
on the Internet, so
I've more or less included an
excerpt from that here. So here
Copyright My Music?
If you see yourself as a serious musician (and I
presume you do), you would be wise to register your original songs with the U.S.
Copyright Office (if you reside outside of the U.S., skip to the section on International Copyright
below). This will protect you in the event that someone, somewhere, steals one
of your songs and claims it as their own. Whether you want to copyright just
one song for possible digital distribution or an entire CD of collected works,
the process is the same.
The eCO Online System
The U.S. Copyright Office encourages you to register your music via an online
registration process called the eCO Online System. Once you go there, create an account for yourself, then log in and youíre
ready to start. Registering a copyright via this process is not all that difficult,
but the technical language can be confusing. The online process does walk you
step-by-step through filling out the document, but even so, take your time.
Carefully read the help links (the underlined text) provided each step of the
way. If you do that, it will help you understand what information goes where.
Youíll find a copyright tutorial for the eCO system at http://www.copyright.gov/eco/eco-tutorial.pdf
. I recommend you take a look at that before you undertake this process to see
what youíre in for.
The filing fee for online song registration is $35.
A few tips regarding the eCO process that I think might help you:
- Youíll want to register your music as a "sound
recording" as this kind of registration includes not only the performance, but
the underlying music itself.
- Under "Title of Work" add the name of your CD first
and set the "Type" as "Title of work being registered." Then list your song
titles and set the "Type" for those as "Contents Title." So the album name is
the "Title," the individual songs are the "Contents."
- If you have cover songs on your album, youíll exclude
those under the "Limitation of Claim" section. For example, if track 7 on your
CD is a cover tune, under "Material Excluded" check the boxes for "Music" and
"Lyrics" (if you have lyrics) and then in the space for "Other" indicate "Track
7." Then under "New Material Included" check all the boxes and under "Other"
list the track numbers for your original songs. So here you specify what tracks
to exclude for copyright registration (because they belong to someone else) and
which tracks to register under your own name. If all the songs on your album
are original, you can skip this section entirely.
Once you have filled out the form and verified all your information, add it toyour cart, pay for it, and then youíll receive an email with instructions on
how to print out your registration and mail it in with copies of your CD. You
can also upload the files digitally, if you prefer.
If you donít wish to go through the online process, you can type all of your
information in Form CO, print it out and mail it in. And
youíll find instructions for Form CO at http://www.copyright.gov/forms/formco2d-ins.pdf .
Fill out the PDF file following the instructions and then print TWO copies. One
copy for yourself, and one copy to mail to the Library of Congress to the
The cost to submit the form by mail is $50.00.
Either way you go, whether online or via mail, it will
take six months to a year for the Library of Congress to process your registration.
However, once youíve submitted your work, youíre officially protected.
If you use FedEx to send your copyright forms (which I suggest you do), keep
your tracking number handy and you can present this as legal proof of your
effective date of copyright registration should you ever need it.
What Does Copyright Registration Do for
Well, if someone does steal your work, not only can you prove the work is
yours by your registration, but you can also sue for damages (you canít legally
sue for damages if your song isnít registered with the copyright office). If the
copyright infringement is determined to be deliberate, your attorney can
initiate a formal criminal investigation.
Registering your songs' copyright grants you these exclusive rights:
- The right to make copies
and duplicate your CD
- The right to distribute your music
- The right
to prepare derivative works (alternate versions, new arrangements)
right to perform the songs publicly
- The right to display the product
- The right to perform publicly via digital audio
Once youíve registered your sound recording (your CD) with
the U.S. copyright office, these rights belong exclusively to you and you alone
(provided, of course, that you are the actual copyright owner). No one can take
those rights from you.
Once your song is registered, you no longer have
to worry about someone stealing your song idea and taking credit for it. If
someone does that, gets a hit out of it and you can prove the song is yours with
your registered copyright, you are going to smile all the way to the bank when
the court awards you damages, which can be very high for copyright theft.
to Copyright Individual Digital Creations
What if you only want to
copyright a single song (or video, or photo, or article, or blog or whatever) to
prove itís yours? See http://www.myfreecopyright.com/ . At this web site
you can upload your digital files, be they music, video, pictures or whatever,
and they are instantly copyrighted and you can prove the date/time of
registration. The service is free, and itís a very simple way to copyright your
individual music creations. Just so you know, however, even though you can use
this digital copyright in a court of law to prove infringement, you cannot
collect statutory damages from the infringer. You can collect lost profits that
might be determined, but not statutory damages which is generally where the big
money comes from. To collect statutory damages, you still need to send in a
registration form into the copyright office as stated above.
There is an alternative means by which you may copyright your work
called Creative Commons ( http://www.creativecommons.org ). Basically what
this does is create a copyright for your music whereby instead of all rights
being reserved, only some rights are reserved. This invites others to use your
work for certain purposes without having to get permission from you first. In
theory, this means people searching for music to use in their products or
digital creations are more likely to use your music if they donít have to jump
through a lot of legal hoops to make use of it. So, for example, you might allow
a song to be used in a non-commercial product (ie. no financial profit for the
distributor) without forcing the licensee to get permission from you, but still
reserve the right to collect a royalty if the product in question is a
money-maker. The Creative Commons copyright is still a rather new concept, and
there are many variations on it that may make the concert confusing for the
potential licensee. Even so, it is something to at least be aware of if the
concept becomes more widely recognized and accepted. For a list of the different
Creative Commons licenses available, see http://creativecommons.org/about/licenses/meet-the-licenses
About International Copyright?
If you are not a citizen of the United States,
obviously the comments above do not apply to you as every country handles the
copyright process a bit differently. However, chances are that your homeland is
a member of the World Intellection Property Organization (WIPO). If so, you can
start researching your copyright options at http://www.wipo.int/members/en/ . Select your
country name from the WIPO list, follow the ďcontact informationĒ link, and that
will take you to a page that lists the web site address of the copyright office
for your country.
notable and related links from
Copyright Office: http://www.copyright.gov
Copyright and Fair Use: http://fairuse.stanford.edu
Copyright Your Web Site:
Copyright Form SR: http://www.copyright.gov/register/sound.html
Copyright Your Digital Creation:
World Intellection Property Org:
The Harry Fox Agency: http://www.harryfox.com/index.jsp
above a brief, (and slightly
to Promote Your Music Successfully
on the Internet.
is the founder of The
Music Biz Academy
Solo Piano Radio. He is also a professional pianist,
recording artist, full-time Internet musician, and author of the book, "How to Promote Your Music Successfully on the Internet."