How to Copywrite a Song

Songwriters often worry that other people will steal their songs. They worry about sending their songs to publishers or entering songwriting contests.

While it's smart to be alert to copyright issues, it's also important to maintain perspective. Outright attempts to steal songs in today's music business are actually quite rare. And thanks to modern copyright law, songwriters have safeguards to help protect their rightful ownership of songs they create.

According to U.S. copyright law, songwriters own their songs the moment their songs are completed. It's easy. Just affix a copyright notice - i.e. © John Doe 2009 - and you're in business. (Even if the copyright notice is not consistently stated on recordings or lyric sheets, the writer still receives copyright protection.)

Most experienced songwriters realize there are likely to be revisions or rewrites on any given song, therefor filing a formal copyright registration with the U.S. Office of Copyrights is often postponed until the song is ready for public dissemination, say, a recording or CD release.

It's up to each individual songwriter to decide at what point in the creative process they want to file a formal copyright with the Library of Congress. And when you do, be aware that you can copyright multiple songs for the price of one. To save money, instead of registering your songs separately, register your songs as a "collection" of songs.

Whether you decide to register your copyrights now or later, there's little reason to worry about playing your songs in front of audiences, working creatively with musicians and songwriters, or entering song contests and songwriting events. There are legal safeguards in place to keep your songs from being stolen.

The bottom line is this: It's against the law to steal anyone's songs. Should someone try, you have solid legal recourse - whether or not your song is formally copyrighted through the US Office of Copyrights.

---credit to Steve Cahill---

Step 1

Write your lyric and put it in a tangible form - on paper, sheet music, computer disk or audiotape. You can't copyright an idea that is still in your head.
Step 2

Recognize that anything written after April 1, 1989, is automatically protected (in the United States) by an assumed copyright. If you don't transfer the copyright to someone else, it will last 70 years past your date of death.
Step 3

Register with the U.S. Copyright Office so that you can more easily collect damages if your work is copied. This also provides public notice.
Step 4

Use the U.S. Copyright Office's PA form to register a song. Use its SR form to register published and unpublished sound recordings.
Step 5

Expect to pay a nonrefundable fee for registration. The basic registration fee is $45, which took effect July 1, 2006.
Step 6

Include a copyright notice at the end of your work. The proper format is: Copyright or ©, year of first publication of the work, author's name: © 2000 John Doe or Copyright 2000 John Doe.

---credit to

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