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How To Copyright Music – Music Copyright Laws In Action

How To Copyright MusicSo you've just written or composed a great song or beat, and you want to know how to copyright music. Well look no further, as below I'll be telling you everything you need to know about copyrighting music.

There are three levels of copyright you can apply to your music:

  1. Low level music copyright,
  2. Medium level music copyright, and
  3. High level music copyright.

Although your music is automatically copyrighted if you put any of these three levels into effect, the higher up you go, the better protected your music is. So read the full article below for all the details on how to copyright your music, and what options are available to you.

Please Note: This article is not in any way meant to act as legal advice; it's simply showing you some practical ways to copyright your music. Music laws vary from country to country, so if you're unsure of how anything effects you specifically in your country, please consult a legal adviser. That said, I hope you find this info useful when copyrighting your music.

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Why Should You Copyright Your Music?

Ok, so why do you need to copyright your songs? Simple, to prove your are the writer or composer of the music in question. If you didn't have a copyright, anyone could come along and say that they were the original owner of your songs. If they were falsely proven to be right, they could take control of your music and any royalties made from them. Furthermore, they may even be cheeky enough to sue you for damages.

It's because of this that's it's important you protect yourself. While as a independent musician starting out you won't often find yourself in this kind of situation, it can happen.

Legal battles over song rights becomes more common as you start earning more money from your music. That said, regardless of where you are in your music career, I suggest you read all the below information and make sure your music is as protected as possible. The sooner you get used to this side of things, the better you'll be able to handle any issues that may arise in future. There are a few different things you can copyright, but the information in this guide will help protect all of your songs. If you want to protect your name, you'll need to apply to trademark your music name.

How To Copyright Music: The Low Level Copyright

Copyrighting Music For MusiciansNow that you know why music copyrighting is important, let's get into the good stuff: How to copyright your music.

As I previously mentioned, there are three levels of copyrighting you can do. The first one, while not perfect (We'll look at why in a minute) actually doesn't require you to do anything. By law, as soon as you publish your music in any tangible way, you officially own the copyright for that song. So if you write down a song on paper or record some vocals in a vocal booth etc, you at that moment already own the full rights. It's as simple as that.

As I mentioned though, this isn't the most reliable type of copyright there is. Yes you legally own the rights, but what if someone else sees your paper and also writes it down? How can you prove that you owned the copyright before them? You can't, is the answer. And if they go as far as to doing any of the two other music copyrighting methods I'm going to mention as this article goes on, they in the eyes of the law are in a better position then you to prove they own the copyright. Not cool.

As a potential deterrent to stop people stealing your work, you will want to put a copyright sign (©) on any artwork or paper you produce. While it won't definitely stop people from copying your music, it is a reminder that it's protected music, and will stop some people trying to claim it as their own.

Copyrighting Music: The Medium Level Copyright

A more secure way (Although not the top way) of copyrighting your songs, is to get them independently dated via one of a few ways. For example, if you make a copy of your lyrics and post them to yourself via recorded and dated delivery, you have proof of when your music was made. You have the date on the package, and you can show this to a court if you ever have to prove the copyright belongs to you.

Be sure not to open the package once you've sent it to yourself however, as if it's opened, a opposing party might claim that you have tampered with it and since added your music at a later date.

Another way to independently date your music is to digitally record it, and put in on a data disk. When recorded, the date should automatically be added to the recording, showing people when the material was first composed. You should also send this data disk to yourself via a recorded and dated delivery as mentioned above, just to make your case even more solid.

While this method is a lot more secure then the low level copyright, a problem still comes up if someone else also does this for your music. For example, they may get hold of a copy of your songs on CD, and their date is earlier or matches yours. That, or they may simply write a date on a page of lyrics, and claim they wrote it before you.

While this method of music copyrighting does go a long way to proving you own the rights, there is one more secure method you can use if you're serious about protecting your music:

Music Copyright: The High Level Copyright

Music Copyright LawsOk, so this is the single biggest copyrighting action you can take to protect your music against those who would try to steal it. It's also the only method of the three that will allow you to sue and claim damages if someone tries to steal your music:

Registering your music through a copyright registration service.

Copyright registration services are companies that can legally copyright your music for you. As they are a third party, their time and dating system is often the best form of proof you can provide in the eyes of the law. If you make a song and immediately register it with one of these services, you have a very good chance of protecting your copyright against people that would want to claim your song as their own.

One of the benefits of copyrighting your music using this method is that you can legally sue someone for stealing your music in certain counties. Using the other two methods, while you can legally get them to stop claiming your music as their own if the copyright is proven to be yours, you can't claim any financial damages after that. With a copyright registration service however, you often can.

Note: Please check if this is the case in your country, and with any potential service you may register with.

Most copyright services charge you a fee for each song or piece of work you protect through them. This fee usually comes in the form of admin costs, or simply as a charge for using their service. The amount of money you pay to get your songs protected will vary from company to company, and may be based on how much of your music you are protecting.

If you're serious about copyrighting your music and have the money to spend, finding and using a good copyright registration service is what I suggest you do.

How To Find A Copyright Registration Service In Your Country

As well as there being varying fees depending on which copyright registration service you go with, there is also a number of different services you can use depending on what country you live in. It would be unrealistic for me to list all of the available services in all counties in this article, so I suggest you do your own research on copyright registration services where you live.

One way you can do this is by carrying out a simple Google search. Load up your local version of Google (Or chosen search engine) and search for ‘copyright registration service *Your Country*‘. You may also want to try ‘copyright service *Your Country*‘. Either of these should show up the results you need, so have a look at the first few results. Look into who each one is provided by, and make sure they're legit. Once you have one that looks suitable for your needs, you can go ahead and register your copyright.

Conclusion

And that is how you copyright your music. Which of the above three mentioned methods you use is up to you, although the third is by far the most secure. If you haven't got the money to use one of these services however, the second methods is the least effort you should put in to securing a provable copyright for your music.

All your work should be copyrighted with this method, so if you are ever unfortunate enough to have someone try and steal your work, at least you've some kind of proof that you are the original owner.

If you've found this guide useful, please share it round on social networking sites using the buttons below, and link to it from your own website. Any thoughts you have on this subject can be made in the comments section also below this post, so feel free to get involved with your experiences.

P.S. Remember though, none of what you've learned will matter if you don't know how to get your music out there and earn from it. Want to learn how to do that? Then get our free ‘5 Steps To Profitable Youtube Music Career' ebook emailed directly to you!

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8 Comments

  1. What if I record it on my computer but record with my phone and upload it to instagram or facebook? What if you have witnesses or something you know. I’m just letting people know I’m trying to do this and that. But what if soneone decides to write it down and say it’s theirs. I have so many questions but that’s what I need to know for the most point, because I’m trying to do music but I dont know how to do any of that stuff like copyrights.
    Please respond whenever you have a chance.

  2. Is YouTube good?
    Because it shows the day and year you uploaded/published your music plus you can do the (c) symbol and Claim ownership in the description or something?

    -A noob at this who still doesn’t even have a band name..

    1. Hi. YouTube isn’t good for copyrighting your music, it won’t prove you legally own the song.

      1. I see now 😛

        Because just because you have it recorded and all, it doesn’t mean it’s yours. Kind of like people who re-upload videos all the time etc.

        Thanks for replying, though!

  3. Hello,
    So if I write lyrics and melody on the spot during a jam over a standard 1-4-5 turn around can I claim ownership since lyrics and melody are the only thing copyrightable? The chords could be in any key and you can’t copyright a 1-4-5 chord progression. I would be inclined to give the guitar player points for leading the band through that progression but not the bass or drummer. What do you think? I can sing the song without any other instruments. Am I being harsh or business reality? Claiming to own C.F.G progression over a standard 12 bar would be like trying to claim copyright over Blue and Yellow Make green. Where do or can we draw the line?

    1. Hi Edward, you make a good point and I see what you’re saying. Like I mentioned, the ‘write it down and it’s copyrighted’ methods isn’t ideal at all, partly for the reasons you mentioned. That said, it is legally how it works.

      If you have an original song and you think it’s worth copyrighting, your best best is to go with the final method of copyright. Here a reputable third party will have a hand in things, and any copyright obtained will be a lot more sturdy if a case ever came up.

      Like I mentioned at the beginning of the article though, it’s best to speak to a music lawyer before you take any action.

      1. If you are in the US you can copyright online http://www.copyright.gov/. They allow you to copyright up to 50 songs at one time for $35. They website is straightforward. As far as chord progressions, lyrics and melodies are the only things copyrighted. You can have more than one person as the author and can stipulate how what percentage everyone gets. In the US the self mailed lyrics is not considered a legal copyright.

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