Song Copyright and Music Copyright

 

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This article has been written to help guide you on the basic principles of how to copyright your songs, lyrics or music.  Please add a bookmark to this page.
 
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IT IS A CONDITION OF USE OF THIS WEBSITE THAT YOU UNDERSTAND THAT THIS INFORMATION IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE - IT IS TO HELP GUIDE YOU TO FIND THE RIGHT INFORMATION AND MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE.
 
You and or your band put a lot of effort into writing your music.  They are your creative work and your property; you need to ensure that you copyright your songs. 
 
Song Copyright and Music Copyright:
It is clear, from the fact that you have visited this article, that you are smart enough to learn about song copyright.  It is in no way a hard subject to learn about - and the basic principles across all copyright is the same: You need to show that the work is yours.  IE -  THIS SONG IS MINE, THIS IS MY NAME, THIS IS THE YEAR I CREATED THE SONG - SO HANDS OFF.     
 
A Few Points:
Under the Berne Convention, most countries have a deal where as soon as your song, music or lyrics are written down in a tangiable form -then they are already copyrighted. You dont need to do anything.  
 
You no longer truly need, when you want to show that you have a song copyright or music copyright, as you created it - the copyright symbol  --> (C)    it's not really needed since the Berne convention. 
HOWEVER - it is always great to show people that you know your stuff - so ensure that you use it as a detterent to show that the copyright is yours. Visit our article about the Copyright Symbol to find out more.
 
CASE STUDY: You need to prove that you created that song on a certain date.  And on that date the music was automatically copyrighted.
Why?:  Imagine you were in the bathroom, and you sang a song to yourself that you made up on the fly.   However, your flatmate - was outside in the garden, and could hear your song.
Whilst you were drying off from the shower - your flatmate, writes down the song on paper. In a tangiable form.  It is now copyrighted - and his work - as he wrote it down first.
HOWEVER, you dont know that he heard the song.   What YOU do, is write the song down and visit the copyright office and file a copyright on that song. The date and everything is recorded with that copyright filing.
2 years later, you have moved out of your flat, and driving in the car with your partner.   On the radio - is that very song that you made up in the shower - and the DJ announces your old flatmates name.  
You hunt down your old flatmate and he says to you "Yeah - it's your song - but look, I wrote it down first, so I own the copyright music rights"; as he shows you the two year old peice of paper. It even say's on it "Copyright 2003, FlatMate - All Rights Reserved".   The problem is (for your flatmate) - he cannot prove when he wrote it.     YOU however, have an official US copyright office filing, that shows the date, time and content of the song. The fact that your flatmate lived with you and could have heard the song and copied it, sticks out like a sore thumb. You are now in the winning position, with the backing of the US Copyright Office to take him to court.   All HE has, is a peice of paper that he wrote on.  No evidence that he created the song copyright before you or that he copyrighted the music before you.    What you have done, is by taking the proper procedures to copyright music - is win through correct procedure 
END OF CASE STUDY
 
Proof of Copyright?
So - you are now thinking.... what if the flatmate could prove that he put the song down in tangiable form before I did? IE - he posted it to himself via registered mail. Or, if he faxed it to himself and the date of creation was on the fax itself. Or - he burnt it to CD, and the CD had the date of creation on it?    These methods of song copyright are what you would have heard being called the "Poor Mans Copyright".   Know NOW, and ALWAYS remember this - copyrighting a song through the poor man's copyright method is NOT trustworthy.  There is a whole article page on this website that in which we discuss this way to copyright song, and we strongly reccomend that you study it carefully.  It takes you through all of the pitfalls of this method and how your song copyright can be severly at risk if you rely on this method.  The only TRUE safe method to copyright music is to register with the official copyright registration office in your respective country.  They have all of the laws and universal agreements sorted out internationaly and you will be covered effectively.    
 
SONG COPYRIGHT CHECK LIST
So - armed with this knowledge of music copyright - there are several key points to learn and stick to. Remember, your music copyright - whethere a song, lyric, jingle etc - will be a lot safter if you take the correct procedure. 

a) Put your music or song in some tangible form - This could be on tape, a CD, a floppy disk or written as sheet music or just on a napkin. Just remember - it HAS to be in a tangiable form.
 
b) Ensure that you register the song or music with your official copyright office of your country. In the US, this is the US copyright office. In Canada - the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.
 
c) Ensure that you are aware that it is very expensive to go to court to contest a copyright.  If you do not have evidence that you hold the song copyright -
it will be very costly. The small fee to register and official copyright, may well be more cost effective in the long run. You will pay about $30 USD registration fee.
 
d) At no time, believe that your music will be safe just because you wrote it down. YES, it is true that the Berne Convention states that as soon as it is written down - it is automatically covered (see our homepage for a diagram of this expression). However, proving the song copyright is yours - is a hard thing to do, specifically in this information age where a document can go from your home to the otherside of the world in under a second. DO NOT RELY PURELY ON THE POOR MANS COPYRIGHT METHOD.
 
e) MOST IMPORTANTLY:  Do not rely soley on one source of information.  Search some more on the internet to form a collective idea of how this process works.  If in doubt always seek a professional for help. There are links on this page to help you find more information.
 
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