Whether you are a manager, artist, producer, agent or label executive, receiving the proper compensation for the effort and resources invested in your product is of utmost priority. This is what separates the hobbyist from the professional. Read below on how to copyright music!
When it comes time to copyrighting your music, there are two forms you can use as a songwriter. They are Form SR and Form PA. Technically, there are three forms, if you consider the fact that there’s also a short-form version of the PA form. But that offers the same protection as the PA form. SR stands for Sound Recording, while PA stands for Performing Arts.
Copyright registration for a sound recording alone is neither the same as, nor a substitute for, registration for the musical, dramatic, or literary work recorded. The underlying work may be registered in its own right apart from any recording of the performance, or in certain cases, the underlying work may be registered together with the sound recording.
When to Use Form SR (Sound Recordings)
Use Form SR for registration of published or unpublished sound recordings, that is, for registration of the particular sounds or recorded performance.
Form SR must also be used if you wish to make one registration for both the sound recording and the underlying work (the musical composition, dramatic, or literary work). You may make a single registration only if the copyright claimant is the same for both the sound recording and the underlying work. In this case, the authorship statement in Space 2 should specify that the claim covers both works.
Form SR is also the appropriate form for registration of a multimedia kit that combines two or more kinds of authorship including a sound recording (such as a kit containing a book and an audiocassette).
When to Use Form PA (Performing Arts)
For registration purposes, musical compositions and dramatic works that are recorded on disks or cassettes are works of the performing arts and should be registered on Form PA or Short Form PA. Therefore, if you wish to register only the underlying work that is a musical composition or dramatic work, use Form PA even though you may send a disk or cassette.
|NOTE: Sounds accompanying a motion picture or other audiovisual work should not be registered on Form SR. The copyright law does not define these sounds as “sound recordings” but as an integral part of the motion picture or audiovisual work in which they are incorporated. These sounds are classified as works of the performing arts and should be registered on Form PA.|
Jane Smith composes words and music, which she entitles “Blowing in the Breeze.” Even though she records it, she is not interested in registering the particular recording but only in registering the composition itself. If she decides to submit “Blowing in the Breeze” for copyright registration, she should use Form PA.
Emily Tree performs and records Jane Smith’s “Blowing in the Breeze” after complying with permissions and license procedures. If Emily decides to submit her recording for copyright registration, she should use Form SR.
Copyright registration costs. There is a cost associated with each application, whether it’s a Form PA or From SR. Check the Copyright Office’s website for the most up-to-date fees. The good news is, if you’re copyrighting your own music, you can submit multiple songs under one application for one application fee. So if you’re copyrighting an album of ten songs, as opposed to copyrighting them one by one, you’ll save a few hundred bucks when protecting your work. Plus it saves you the paperwork of copyrighting all of your songs separately.
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 you’re 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.
You’ll 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 you’re in for.
The filing fee for online song registration is $35.
A few tips regarding the eCO process that I think might help you:
- You’ll 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, you’ll 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 to your cart, pay for it, and then you’ll 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 don’t 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 you’ll 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 address provided.
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 you’ve submitted your work, you’re 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 Me?
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 can’t legally sue for damages if your song isn’t 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:
- Make copies and duplicate your CD
- Distribute your music
- Prepare derivative works (alternate versions, new arrangements)
- Perform the songs publicly
- Display the product publicly
- Perform publicly via digital audio transmission
Once you’ve 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.
What 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 athttp://www.wipo.int/members/en/ . Select your country name from the WIPO list, follow the “contact information” link, and that will take you to a page that lists the web site address of the copyright office for your country.
Some notable and related links from this article on how to copyright music:
The U.S. Copyright Office: http://www.copyright.gov
Copyright and Fair Use: http://fairuse.stanford.edu
Copyright Your Web Site: http://www.gocopyright.com
Copyright Form SR: http://www.copyright.gov/register/sound.html
Copyright Your Digital Creation: http://www.myfreecopyright.com
World Intellection Property Org: http://www.wipo.int/members/en/
The Harry Fox Agency: http://www.harryfox.com/index.jsp