Why Bother Registering Your Copyright?

By George Howard

As we’ve discussed in numerous articles, when an author fixes an original work in a tangible form, he or she creates a copyright and is immediately granted six exclusive rights. 

You don’t have to register the work with the Copyright Office to get these rights, you don’t have to mail yourself a copy, and you don’t have to send your song submission form into your PRO (ASCAP/BMI).  All you have to do is write down or record an original work, and the copyright is yours.

So, why would you bother with the expense and time of registering your work?


The answer is, because if you don’t register your work, your rights and remedies with respect to your work are limited.

Specifically, unless you register your work, you cannot bring suit against someone who you believe has infringed upon any of your six rights.  To be clear, this means that if you wake up one morning and hear a song you know you wrote being performed by someone else — someone you never granted permission to record/perform your work — and you have not registered your work, you cannot bring suit against the person you believe has stolen your work!

Additionally, unless you register your work you are not eligible to receive so-called statutory damages and attorney’s fees should you win a case against someone who has infringed upon your work.

Registering, within five years of publishing the work, also represents prima facie evidence in a case of infringement.  This means that by registering you are assumed to be the author of the work, and the burden to show that you are not is on the person who has not registered the work.

Related to the above, registering sets a very specific date that can be used in cases when one party claims to have created a work prior to another party. 

All of the above should compel you to register your works. You can do so online here.

We feel so strongly that you should register, that we'll choose one commenter [and/or person who answers the poll] at random and pay for the registration of the copyrights for one of their complete works (i.e. an entire record, not the individual songs].  All you have to do is leave a comment below.

  • hodari

    this clarified things a little more for me

  • http://www.justcasper.me Casper

    now I understand…

  • http://bobplayspiano.com Bob Ewell

    What if I have recorded a piano CD of all public domain songs? I have put the (C) notice on the CD and the album jacket. What, specifically, am I copyrighting? If I register it, do I just describe the recording? Or what?

  • http://profile.typepad.com/kumar303 Kumar303

    You also can get royalty checks when you register through ASCAP/BMI

  • http://www.gihyl.com Michael Garner

    Thank you guys so much.

  • J.Vittone

    I’m getting on it as we speak…..

  • http://huntingfox.es Joseph

    And what if you’re not in the USA? :/

  • http://www.geomagnetic.tv nathan vogel

    Is there a way to register a whole catalog at once?
    What if you are on BMI already? do they have a way to register a whole catalog at once?

  • http://www.abbyfeferman.com Abby Feferman

    Thank you so much for posting this! I keep putting off registering/copyrighting my music, and it’s something that is very important. I practice my music in random parks and places all the time. You never know who is listening and recording what you’re doing. I would never want somebody else to record and release something that I did not give them permission to. Reading this is showing me how important it is and that it’s something I really need to do! Thank you, TuneCore! :)

  • http://audioautograph.net A.J. Lauer

    The question is really “why NOT copyright your work/songs??!!??” haha.
    Good short, to the point, straight forward comment.
    I totally agree with you.
    Please consider me for the contest!
    Thanks a lot,
    A.J. Lauer
    Audio Autograph
    AJLauer83[at]yahoo[dot]com
    audioautograph.net (with links to facebook, twitter, myspace, etc)

  • http://www.purevolume.com/eVo Evan

    Wow! I had no idea that mailing it wasn’t enough! I have quite a bit to do then!

  • http://audioautograph.net A.J. Lauer

    ha, I meant “good, straight forward, to the point, ARTICLE”! (not comment)

  • http://www.anitabob.com/crossroads Bob

    If budgetary constraints are the reason for people not copyrighting their songs, they also have the option to copyright a collection, such as an album, of songs as a “work”. This protects a group of songs for one single fee, compared to a fee for each song, which represents a significant savings to the author.

  • Kevin

    Always get great advice from Tunecore!

  • http://www.reverbnation.com/#!/patwatsonproject Pat Watson

    How much deviation is required from the original song before the song is considered a “different” song and is not infringing on the copyright?
    In other words, if someone takes my song and changes the chorus or rearranges it somehow is it now a different song?
    Thanks.

  • http://www.faridmusiconline.com Farid

    I have a CD, but it contains instrumentals from producers and cowriters, which I have permission to use. I tried to register it online, but everything was so complicated to register it as a musical work, as a collection, or the songs separately, etc. Any advice?

  • alicua nalevanko

    so where do you register and should you do individual songs compared to an entire album ?

  • http://willbrownmendia.com Will Brown

    You can bring suit against any infringer violating an unregistered work. It will cost you more because the US Gov only acts when a copyright IS registered, which means it will bring it’s full force to end any infringement, .
    In such a case, you will have to have your attorney, not the US Gov attorney as in cases of registered work, file an infringement case. You will have to prove to a judge your work is the original work and existed prior to any infringement.
    A common law copyright, registered mailing the work to oneself in a sealed envelope upon creation, is sufficient evidence of prior ownership. It is a dated document and should remain sealed unless their is a dispute.
    Infringers have to pay all damages and court costs, including your attorneys fees for infringement in either registered or un-registered copyright lawsuits that result in an award to the copyright owner. The difference is the Government will act in your behalf when the work is registered, at no cost to the copyright owner. Otherwise, you must prove you have ownership to a judge and hire your own attorney.
    That said. You do risk having to pay your attorney’s fees if you lose the case.

  • http://www.soundclick.com/apaulobeatz Paul

    So if I register my song with ASCAP/BMI/etc.., does that still constitute getting it “copyrighted”? Thanks for any clarification.

  • Benji

    wow, i had no idea…

  • http://profile.typepad.com/cloutieraaron Cloutieraaron

    Though registering your work with the library of Congress may not seem as important in this day and age when online piracy is still running rampant, I strongly agree that it’s vital to register your songs. Independent musicians need every possible advantage and in the event that your work is infringed upon and you have legal documentation proving the work is yours, you’re entitled to be awarded damages up to 5 figures if memory serves correct. Worth the $35 registration fee in my opinon. To me it’s like song insurance that you only have to pay one time unless of course you re-record multiple versions and then have to register each individual sound recording.
    Feel free to check out my thoroughly registered work here ha ha
    http://www.myspace.com/davola-metal
    http://www.myspace.com/soundwarsproductions

  • http://www.arskinetica.com Thomas “C@t” Mrak

    I have heard that when you create something it is copyrighted…
    This isn’t true then, or is this insurance against infringement?

  • http://legaciproductions.wordpress.com/ Mark

    Yeah i would love to register my work. ;),

  • Matthew Lavanture

    MADLAB, The Pick-hop L. P.
    Recorded April 2009
    Released through tunecore June 2010
    I have never been too concerned with copyrighting my work because I feel music should be free domain as medicine. I am selling it because if someone has some extra money and likes it, by all means i will be glad to put some money in my pocket, as i dish it out from time to time for music i cant live without.
    Payment in Kindness

  • http://www.missincinatti.com Jessica C.

    thank you, Tunecore. Always great articles!

  • Me

    Thanks for this guys. I thought registering with SOCAN in Canada was sufficient.

  • Jeff Vormittag

    Good article, but please include average costs of registering in future blogs.

  • luggage

    As always your articles very helpful
    thanks

  • azell

    This really puts things in perspective!..I’m doing this immediatley!

  • http://www.twitter.com/skrapz Chuck

    Great article. There’s no other answer not to other than laziness.

  • http://www.mommymasters.blogspot.com Ellie

    Thanks for the information. I am nearly finished with my CD and definitely plan on copyrighting as a whole to protect myself.

  • Damon

    Good information concisely written. Thanks!

  • http://sonicstreamers.com sonicstreamers

    This is an interesting topic. This past summer I lost my ipod(or it was stolen) with a lot of my own old music archived on it. Since ipods can now be digitally ‘hacked’and possibly end up on a file-sharing site, I was forced into looking for a distribution venue and discovered TUNECORE. I had to ‘clean up’ old lo-fi pieces and get into production of half finished material. I’ve been writing music for a long time. In the early 70s I submitted many songs to the Washington copyright office, lead sheets & lyrics being all you needed then(now? I have no idea) Being primarily a songwriter with mediocre music skills I had no desire to beat my brains out(pay dues) in a ‘rock’ band night after night playing the same old cover songs over & over for the drunk, stoned, and clueless. However, it also meant that I did not join BMI or ASCAP because it basically seemed like too much trouble for questionable returns. Now, after 4 albums released on TUNECORE in the past few months, I still dont have time or energy to actually register songs(just lead sheets, lyrics, or what?). Life goes on, you must really love making music regardless of the adulation, financial return, or lack thereof. Personally, I dont listen to very much of anything out there in the music universe–I have no time to do so. If someone actually ‘stole’ a song of mine or a few lyrics or a chord progression, how the hell would I ever know it? As far as I can tell, the musician’s ego is the primary determination of the direction the music will take and of course, we all like to think our songs are the best! So, my impression is that 99% of the groups & individuals out there will take pride in writing ALL there own material, for better or worse. And then you’ll need a lot of moxie and a lot of luck!
    Play on, McDuff!

  • http://www.colorfulmusicbabyblue.com Earnest L. Hines

    Not only should you register your created works and copyright it, it is imperative that you do so as the article states, for protection against infringement and for your own peace of mind.
    Thanks Tunecore

  • http://www.aetherfluxllc.com Raab

    Some people think they have to hire lawyers and whatnot to get copyright on their work. It’s so simple to do!

  • http://profile.typepad.com/dissenter71 Dissenter71

    I hope you’re picking the copyright winner at random, as my comment is pretty banal. Good points being made in the article though.

  • IFEANYI ODUM

    THANX PAY FOR MY COPYRIGHTS

  • C.Elevation

    This is why I love Tunecore. I was just recently thinking whether or not I should spend the money to copyright my album. Thanks for the vass amount of knowledge.

  • Wyatt

    I’m wondering the same thing. Doesn’t sound like this “auto copyright” really exists in more than name only.

  • http://richlangmusic.com Rich Lang

    Isn’t true that there is no need to register your song with a PRO(BMI) unless it is going to be released as a product for sale?

  • http://www.charlus.org marc daniels

    Absolutely agree. Thanks for the reminder guys!

  • http://dimmwitness.com dimm witness

    thanks for the info :-) actually I’d be honored if anyone liked my music enough to redo it — hopefully properly. but I could use any money I could make for the kids’ college ;-). I’ve sold one cd off iTunes so far — to myself! lol. buying it the day it came out was worth the money for the thrill alone 😀

  • http://www.flashfiremusic.com Joey Flash

    Good to know and good reason not to jam new riffs at guitar center ha

  • http://easykiller.bandcamp.com Matt von Lindenber (aka Easy, Killer…)

    That certainly clarifies things… especially in light of putting out an album very soon. Thanks for the info

  • http://www.tiffany-scott.com Tiffany Scott

    Even though I knew these things, it’s always been too expensive for me to get each song copyrighted. So I’ve had certified packages sent to myself and I’ve had my mother keep all of them for me. She’s so sweet. She’s kept everything one of them for me. Hopefully one day I’ll make it so that she wouldn’t have been holding on to them in vain!

  • http://gmo3.com Geronimo Moreno

    good topic

  • http://www.myspace.com/OfficialTabooPage Jarel

    Wow!!!!! I have been in the business for over a decade and I never knew that you can claim rights to a song that hasn’t been registered; although it seems registering is the best way to go.

  • connor

    veddy veddy good

  • MB

    Very glad I read this article. I definitely need to copyright my material.

  • http://ianthemole.com Ian

    Thanks for the information!

  • http://hurrishiphop.com BH

    that helped a lot

  • Sand Grady

    I think that it is very important to get the proper paper work for all things that you do in life.Copyrights is so important to the artistic society.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/afamiliarvoice A Familiar Voice

    I would love to copyright my work, but I have a hard time justifying paying quite a lot of money to do so; especially, when I’m not sure if I will even make that money back on the music that I am copyrighting.

  • http://www.wix.com/markcrocker/mc Mark Crocker

    I have all my songs registered with ASCAP. Do I still need to register with the Copyright Office? And how do I copyright my entire catalog in one easy fashion?

  • http://www.facebook.com/ghostsofaugust Paul

    I believe this to be confusing and misleading:
    ” To be clear, this means that if you wake up one morning and hear a song you know you wrote being performed by someone else — someone you never granted permission to record/perform your work — and you have not registered your work, you cannot bring suit against the person you believe has stolen your work!”
    My understanding is that you can not bring suit UNTIL the work is copyrighted, not that you would never be able to bring suit. The only downfall to this is that the burden of proof would then be on your shoulders to show that you are in fact the originator of this work (as opposed to the other way around had you copyrighted it before it being infringed upon).
    Is my thinking correct? To say you cannot bring suit against someone you believe has stolen your work with absolution seems misleading.
    Good article though!

  • Mark Olmstead

    This clears up alot of questions; thanks again Tunecore!

  • http://Brothersdube.com Bob Dube

    Cool. I wonder if “cool” is a good enough comment.

  • Tina Haws

    This was very helpful, I was just checking into copyrights for the logo I’m designing for a local radio station.

  • http://www.buymybeats.110mb.com DOMAHIDI

    Hi there!
    A very important thing…if You are making songs,instrumentals to be used as production music…there’s an important thing to be shure that you will have the copyright as composer or/& producer because the publisher will have his publisher copyright but You can stay without it…that’s important…

  • Andy

    Very interesting… what about if you’re not a US resident? In order to have your songs protected, is it better to register your songs with your local PRO or with the Library of Congress? Thank you

  • http://www.starmill.at Peter

    Although registering your works with the Copyright Office is certainly useful and a good idea, it is not true, that you cannot sue someone for infringement unless you registered.
    That’s a popular misunderstanding that shouldn’t be repeated here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/spirytusband Ryan

    This is a very good article. explained a few things for me. :)

  • Vincenzo Pandolfi

    It make sense, but for us down under…is registering our work with APRA enough??

  • Vincenzo Pandolfi

    …oops makes sense…

  • http://www.coda-productions.co.uk Jon

    If you record music and release it online through a reputable vendor such as JunoDownload then surely their records would qualify as a means of dating when that track was released and therefore provide evidence of copyright in any infringement case?

  • http://www.majoramo.com Morten Alexander Joramo

    Food for thought. I guess an eventual initial thrill of realizing that someone liked ones music enough to record it, would pretty soon be flushed away by the realization that they actually stole it. Keep up the good work:-)

  • http://myspace.com/conradodess Conrado Dess

    This subject still a little messy for me. If I register it in Brazil is OK for the whole world?

  • Jan Fiehler

    Registering a copyright should be considered by every writer as simply another step in protecting and maintaining their professional work, the same as joining ASCAP or BMI. It’s not always about the money though. Sometimes, it’s simply to protect the recognition and posterity of the writer. I may never make much money from my songs, but if one is ever used by another artist, television show or movie I do want my name to be in the credits as the writer.

  • http://music.raccoonfink.com/ Benjamin Reed

    Thanks!
    I also finally got around to registering for SoundExchange. =)

  • http://www.renelabre.com Rene Labre

    Your copyright is your only protection from illegal exploitation of your original created works.It is proof postive of not only your creation but also your “first use” of the work.It is he only thing that will stand in a court of law.Your mom and a registered letter you sent to yourself testifying you wrote the song is not going to make it.Add to this that you must join a performance rights society and register your work with them as well.If someone has an interest in your tune this is where they are going to look to find the contact information.Henceforth every time and in everyway the tune is presented you want a circled “C” and “P” with the registration date.This is an industry rife with some pretty shitty characters to say the least.And on your way up you are going to meet some of them and they will try to screw you in any way you can imagine.The power of the copyright is not going to go away and if you are really serious about this you will represent yourself with these professional credentials.May good fortune smile on you,keep on dreaming!Perhaps they willall come true!renelabre.com

  • Rob

    Folks, please allow me to state with no uncertainty, mailing yourself a copy of your music is absolutely ineffective at establishing your copyright. You must register your work with the Copyright Office, both the copyright for the song and/or the phonoright for the recording. I know understanding all the facets to copyright can be very daunting, but think of it like insurance: the chances of someone actually stealing your music is extremely slim, but it’s up to you whether you want to take the risk. If you are serious about your music, then take care of business properly.

  • reggiev

    that awesome to have all that protection,but what do you do when you need an attorney for a lawsuit,for those who have never ever been in this predicament like me.who do I call and talk to what terms do I use.how much do I suit for
    Thank you,ReggieV/C-TownClik

  • http://Www.myspace.com/dsecretsvcbeats D’secret Svc

    I totally dig your point of view…awesome state of mind !!
    -D’Secret Svc.

  • Breon M.

    You know this is very important article for a lot of artist and their managers. Right now I’m in a predicament that me or my artist can afford to copyright any of the songs that have been finished. The scary thing is two of our songs are posted on the internet within two different public domains. So getting everything thing we’ve done copyrights is key at this point. Thanks for this article, it helped explain a lot more about the importance of copyrights.

  • Breon M.

    You know this is a very important article for a lot of artist and their managers. Right now, I’m in a predicament that me or my artist can not afford to copyright any of the songs that have been finished. The scary thing is two of our songs are posted on the internet within two different public domains. So getting everything thing we’ve done copyrights is key at this point. Thanks for this article, it helped explain a lot more about the importance of copyrights.

  • Breon M.

    Good article I need to try and register right now

  • http://profile.typepad.com/trinitytakeover Trinitytakeover

    Yes, on the copywrite website you can register and upload up to 10 wroks at once for the same fee as one work.

  • http://www.snakeskinprison.com matt

    That’s why I have an attorney 😉

  • http://www.reverbnation.com/softministry Robert A. Goins Sr.

    Thank you this was very helpful as I am going through a copy right issue as we speak.

  • Andy

    As probably already asked, if I sell my music on iTunes and other stores, is it sufficient to prove my ownership? Time ago I read a statement which said if you publish your music you are protected and you need a PRO to collect radio streams and performance royalties only. Since then I got a lot of conflicting opinions about that, could you please clarify this point? Thanks

  • http://profile.typepad.com/inthenameofhope Inthenameofhope

    I am a recording engineer who wrote the music for a CD project while the man who hired me wrote the lyrics and paid for studio time. Soon into the project, we decided verbally to form a partnership to promote the CD. Since then, we have parted ways and he doesn’t want me to use the music in any way saying he paid for
    the studio time so he should own everything. I disagree
    since I wrote all of the instrumental music for each song. I would like to copyright and promote the CD, I would list him on the copyright as the lyrisist and myself as the music writer. Is there a problem with me doing this?

  • http://www.cycurnin.com muserella

    This is a really eye (and ear!) opening article about a subject that can be so confusing, I think we try not to think about it and hope it never becomes an issue. Your straight-forward approach has helped me to understand it much better. Time to get serious about copyright.

  • http://www.jimburtmusic.com Jim Burt

    It’s too bad that the fee to copyright a single song is so expensive. Especially now that it can be done over the computer with an MP3 file. It’s still needs to be done, though.

  • Marc Maycroft

    I was just looking at this stuff and was so confused! Thanks for clearing it up.

  • http://www.decibelhogg.com drewscottband@yahoo.com

    Do it, w any luck someone will make your song a hit and you lay a suit on them, lol. All kidding aside, you should do this. Decibel Hogg

  • http://www.clubdearmonica.com Ivan

    Copyright is a must!

  • am

    So important to protect and respect creative work!

  • http://profile.typepad.com/robertmacias Robert Macias

    The article was very insightful and the comments left by other members were also very helpful with brining more clarity and structure to this. Thank you.

  • Slim

    Well what about if I’m paying a famous artist for a collab to spit a 16 bar verse over a track I produced the beat for and am always going to be doing a verse on since I’m paying him upfront for that verse does that means I register the copyright in my name and all money made from itunes sales of that single are mine?

  • kevin allen

    i whet to,jacap and register last month,thanks

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/MajestyCrush?feature=mhum david
  • http://hoodedclawband.com Alex

    cool thnx

  • http://www.bobbycronin.com rojocro@yahoo.com

    Will definitely register more pieces now!

  • RV

    Great article, thanks!

  • http://www.roundtownsound.com Craig Morrison

    Thanks
    Craig Morrison
    http://www.roundtownsound.com

  • http://www.emjmusic.com Michael Moore

    This article is one of the most important articles that I have read. I am an owner of my own music production company and I am in the process of registering my my completed songs for a project I am releasing soon. Many people who desire to create music completely fear the process of registering their works. I hear many stories year after year of artists who have not protected their music and are upset because their songs were used by others without their permission. Again, I stress this article is VERY IMPORTANT!

  • Conner Sly

    This is really interesting…thanks!!!

  • edwin

    copy+rights

  • http://www.soekingdom.com Didymus

    Great info! How can you register the entire body of work at once, rather than song by song?

  • Sean

    I have registered my music with BMI and it plays all day on the internet radio stations. It has been over a year now and I still have not recieved a royalty check from them. What am i doing wrong? All my music has been copyright. Pls help.

  • Jan

    Thanks for reminding us to copyright our work. What happens if you copyright 10 songs together that make up an album – one copyright fee for the sound recording and later you want to release one of those songs as a single? Is that song protected individually even though it was under one copyright for the album?
    Also, if you copyright the sound recording do you also have to copyright the music in order to protect the music? Can you protect the sound recording, the music and the artwork all together by sending in the physical CD? Thanks.

  • http://www.reverbnation.com/toofpickwill T. Will

    ahhh i learned something today!!

  • Dj Jones

    didn’t realise registering was so important. definately top priority now

  • http://www.pauldalymusic.com Paul Daly

    If you believe in your work , insure its value . The web site is very user friendly , even I can do it .

  • http://www.airwolfone.com Alberto

    I agree, always register your original work.
    But I have a question: should an official publication(i.e. iTunes, You Tube…) constitute evidence of copyright by any meaning?

  • Charlene Xan

    To be honest, I always thought that having mailed it to yourself was quite enough for court. Someone please comment on this to my email if you have more info. Much thanks.

  • http://www.datpiff.com/profile/iTzBiZzLe CooL Dude LiL B

    I make beats every day, so it is very important for me to file my copyrights. I don’t have the money all the time to file, so I keep beats hidden and unheard until I get the money. Is there a way to file with the US copyright office for free? Also, can I submit beats to BMI as a composer?

  • Deaf Rabbit

    It is a must that you copyright your material! I mean, unless you want other people to take credit for your work, or use it to make money without your permission.

  • Song Smythe

    Get ISRC codes put onencoded into your music CDs It costs 75 dollars Look it up on the internet ISRC

  • SongSmyth

    Postmark the seals on the envelope
    That is actually proof that it was mailed and created before it was put in the envelope It helps But the real Copyright through Lib Of Congress is the most safest way You can do it economically by putting all of your music on one form and you can always go back and do them individually when you need to

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    you can register a (c) for an arrangement of a PD work so long as your arrangement is materially different than the original PD work.
    GH

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    be careful to distinguish between registering a (c) with the (c) office, and your song submission forms to your pro (ascap/bmi) – very different.
    GH

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    register with the (c) office in your country.
    GH

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    you can register works (i.e. albums), but each album in the catalog has to be registered individually.
    for bmi, you need to submit a song submittal form for each song.
    GH

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    thanks for the kind words.
    GH

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    Thanks,
    George

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    common misperception.
    George

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    thanks for bringing this up, Bob.
    George

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    Thanks,
    George

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    “material” changes of melody or lyric will push a song from being a cover (which is perfectly legal so long as the person covering the song accounts to the (c) holder) into a derivative work, for which permission must be obtained.
    GH

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    My advice is to register as a music work for each song.
    if the instrumentals are (c)’d, you’ll need to register as a joint work.
    GH

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    http://www.copyright.gov/eco/
    you should register both the individual works, and the collection for ultimate protection.
    GH

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    I have a different view on this.
    First, while the 9th circuit has on occasion allowed for an infringement suit to be brought prior to registration, in order for the suit to move forward, registration has been required. still best to register:
    This from the copyright.gov site on whether you can bring suit without registration:
    Do I have to register with your office to be protected?
    No. In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Copyright Registration.”

    2. You state: “A common law copyright, registered mailing the work to oneself in a sealed envelope upon creation, is sufficient evidence of prior ownership. It is a dated document and should remain sealed unless their is a dispute.”
    I don’t know what a “common law” (c) is, but I do know that mailing a work to yourself (“poor man’s (c)”) is not advisable. Again, from the copyright.gov site:
    I’ve heard about a “poor man’s copyright.” What is it?
    The practice of sending a copy of your own work to yourself is sometimes called a “poor man’s copyright.” There is no provision in the copyright law regarding any such type of protection, and it is not a substitute for registration.

    Thanks,
    George

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    No. Two different things.
    Reg with the (c) office gives you rights and remedies.
    sending your song submittal forms to your pro (ascap or bmi) allow you to have your music publicly performed, and creates a mechanism for you to be paid when this occurs.
    GH

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    As I say in the article, when you create an original work and “fix it in a tangible medium” – i.e. write it down or record it, you create a (c), and get 6 exclusive rights. however, by registering the (c) you gain additional rights and remedies.
    GH

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    this seems self-contradictory.
    GH

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    Thanks,
    George

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    SOCAN is the Canadian perf rights society (equivalent to ascap/bmi in the us). you still need to reg your (c) with the canadian (c) office for rights and remedies.
    GH

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard
  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    Thanks,
    George

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    nice.
    GH

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    agreed.
    George

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    awesome.
    George

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    thank you!
    George

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    luck seems to correlate to moxie.
    Thanks,
    George

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    agreed.

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    it’ll be random.
    Thanks,
    George

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    thanks for the kind words!
    George

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    no, registering with a pro allows you to be compensated if your song is publicly performed.
    GH

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    you’re welcome.
    George

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    this is not adequate, Tiffany.
    from the copyright.gov site:
    I’ve heard about a “poor man’s copyright.” What is it?
    The practice of sending a copy of your own work to yourself is sometimes called a “poor man’s copyright.” There is no provision in the copyright law regarding any such type of protection, and it is not a substitute for registration.
    best,
    George

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    Reg with the (c) office gives you rights and remedies.
    sending your song submittal forms to your pro (ascap or bmi) allow you to have your music publicly performed, and creates a mechanism for you to be paid when this occurs.
    so – yes.
    you can reg a collection of songs, but it’s best to also reg individual works.
    GH

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    Thanks Paul. Sorry for the confusion, maybe this clears it up?
    While the 9th circuit has on occasion allowed for an infringement suit to be brought prior to registration, in order for the suit to move forward, registration has been required. still best to register:
    This from the copyright.gov site on whether you can bring suit without registration:
    Do I have to register with your office to be protected?
    No. In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Copyright Registration.”
    best,
    George

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    be careful, a logo will fall under TM, not (c) – different process.
    GH

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    i don’t follow this.
    George

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    first, distinguish between a pro and the (c) office.
    second, register your (c) in your home country.
    GH

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    Peter, I’m not sure where you’re getting your information, but here’s what copyright.gov states:
    Do I have to register with your office to be protected?
    No. In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Copyright Registration.”
    Thanks,
    George

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    no, APRA is the Australian perf rights organization (like bmi/ascap in the us). you still must reg with the aus (c) office.
    GH

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    it is evid, but without reg you can’t sue.
    GH

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    if you reg with the (c) office in brazil, other countries who have signed the berne convention will treat your (c) in the same manner as if it were registered in their country.
    GH

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    make sure you distinguish between (c) and (p).
    GH

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    thanks, Rob.
    from copyright.gov:
    The practice of sending a copy of your own work to yourself is sometimes called a “poor man’s copyright.” There is no provision in the copyright law regarding any such type of protection, and it is not a substitute for registration.
    George

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    i don’t follow this.
    what are “two public domains?”
    GH

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    no. selling on itunes and other stores (via TuneCore) is evidence, but you must register the (c) for rights and remedies.
    the affiliation with a pro allows for your songs to be publicly performed, and creates a mechanism for you to be paid when they are performed.
    GH

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    this is tricky. it sounds like a work made for hire situation. in other words, if you were paid for your contribution with the understanding that it was a work made for hire, then you relinquished any claim to your contribution.
    GH

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    thanks!
    GH

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    could be a work for hire situation, but you should get an attorney to help you draft an agreement that makes it very clear to all parties before any recording.
    GH

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    Thanks,
    George

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    it’s all here:
    http://www.copyright.gov/
    George

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    there can be quite a lag between it being played and getting paid.
    you should also register with soundexchange.
    GH

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    i recommend (c)’ing the individual works as well as the collection(s).
    GH

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    it is evidence of creation date.
    GH

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    from the copyright.gov site:
    The practice of sending a copy of your own work to yourself is sometimes called a “poor man’s copyright.” There is no provision in the copyright law regarding any such type of protection, and it is not a substitute for registration.
    George

  • http://www.twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

    no there are fees.
    yes, you can submit song forms as a writer and publisher to your pro (bmi/ascap).
    GH

  • http://profile.typepad.com/inthenameofhope Inthenameofhope

    George thanks for the reply,
    I am still wondering since after the very first week in the studio, we formed a partnership, even had the name of the project and CD worked out together. would I still be considered a work for hire if after that week we became partners and from there forward called ourselves a “band” with a name, etc.? Thanks
    ~Boyd~

  • http://www.almarconi.com Al Marconi

    A very good idea for anyone who writes anything GOOD ENOUGH for someone to want to steel it….possibly why not many UK artist bother to register!

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Frastuono/46780222293 Frastuono

    Thank you! but sending a copy to myself isn’t so bad…

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Frastuono/46780222293 Frastuono

    Thank you! but sending a copy to myself isn’t so bad…

  • rmeyer20@hotmail.com

    Awesome article, very informative. Information that I was not aware of. Thanks!

  • http://Kekeivalentine.blogspot.com Kekei V

    This was definitely something that artists should understand more in the industry just setting yesterday how beyonce don’t never write her ownstuff .got about three lawsuits

  • Andy

    @ George
    I’m not a U.S. citizen but my PRO company, offers a service to register © to the Washington office. (http://www.copyright.gov/). They said that this is the preferred way and it constitutes an international validity, is it true?
    I’d also like to know if I can apply on my own, filling the online form even if I’m not a US resident. It will make me save a lot of money since my PRO has expensive office fees including shipments of hard copies. I downloaded the filling tutorial presentation at http://www.copyright.gov/ and since I’ve released my songs digitally (TuneCore), I think I can apply.
    Could you please give me an advice?
    Finally, if I have a CD with 10 songs, do I have to register each songs (single application) or I can register the entire album as one application and then upload 10 tracks?

  • maurice

    In Australia there is no registration requirement and no facility to do so. Can I register in the US under these circumstances and have legal protection?
    Thank you

  • http://www.ryanhouckmusic.com Ryan Houck

    Does it matter that the same song/recording is included in multiple collections?
    If I were to register a collection of 200 songs titled, ‘Songs from 2000-2011’ and use one or more of the songs from that collection in another– perhaps titled, ‘The 2011th year of our lord’– does this help that(those) song(s) in dual collections? I imagine that if a song is making it to multiple collections, it might be best to register the song on its own.
    I like to post songs I’m writing at my site and include notation for visual purposes, but I’m quickly accumulating a lot of songs posted without registered copyright. I’ve thought of making ‘Best of the Month/Season/Year’ albums and registering those, but I can’t see myself registering 365 individual tunes if I were to embark on a 365 project (which I’m currently working on, though my postings are slow). Is it best to copyright a bundle of songs like this and then further copyright individual songs if they generate revenue?
    Thanks George for the article and sound advice. Best,
    Ryan

  • Lamont alexander

    If I make a beat and I (C) as a sound recording do I own the rights, because it option labeled as production, and I’m nt an music engineer, or have any skills in this field, so I don’t do any mixing to my beats, so should I still register it as a sound recording and also as production, since I made the beat.

  • http://facebook.com/davepowellmusic Dave Powell

    this makes more sense now.

  • kyle williams

    i dont know how or where so can some1 please send me a link or something but i also thought that tunecore does the copyright stuff
    PLEASE HELP ME NOW!!!!!

  • http://www.techsupport.mx Darez

    do you have to be a US citizen to register your work in the U.S.?

  • LAA

    Most informative… Thank You

  • http://www.myspace.com/ainsleyds phd_wcs@hotmail.com

    Yes very important. A must for a songwriter.

  • john

    pick me

  • Dre

    Thanks so much for the information. A lot of us creative types often forget that there are some rules we should be following.

  • http://www.shenniesmith.com shennie

    Copyrighting is definitely important. I keep having nightmares about hearing someone else singing my songs on the radio… really:P

  • Chris Robinson

    I really enjoy the blogs. The information is very useful.

  • paparocker@peoplepc.com

    Ive recoeded and wrote the song my self and posted it
    on website but not copywrote it
    did i do the wrong thing

  • hosto family

    I from dominican republic can I register my song if i ouside of usa. Im can i get my money from this song

  • Raul Gonzalez jr.

    I don’t know if the melody (instrumental) that I used for one of my songs was copywrited, but I used it anyway. My question is: what if I added new notes, strings, and cordes to their instrumental, then recorded my own lyrics. Can I copywrite this song as my own?

  • http://TrashDay.com todd@trashday.com

    Ok… what if I don’t have $35 dollars. And I need to let an artist hear a song to sell it. Can I use one of these:
    Have witnesses that heard the song
    Upload it to a server where a date would listed as to when it was uploaded
    Let my attorney have a copy and date when I gave it to him Use a service that records the date when it was listed.
    http://TrashDay.com

  • http://www.brokencube.net chokingbube@gmail.com

    These articles are fantastic. Tunecore clearly cares about its artists and about the industry they are in. I have only just joined tunecore in the last few months & consider it one of my business partners. Essentially you are a business partner to all artists who distribute through you & I think people are going to begin to realise this more and more as time goes by, instead of thinking of you as merely a tool.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/hempkamp Hempkamp

    Have three albums released and would love to have this opportunity. I just put too much money into studio equipment, packaging materials, promotional tools that I don’t have any money left to take care of copyright registrations; that got put on the backburner because the other things seemed more of a neccessity than registration. Thanks for the chance!

  • http://www.regelark.com Clair Hill

    Thank you for the information above.  I manage a Reggae Artist and am a one woman crew that stays up until 5 AM working on HIS PR and songs and contests, etc, etc,.  THANK YOU AGAIN. I will be working on his copyrighting this week.  

  • Mike

    I think I have finally found a little help in this music world.Thank you.

  • http://abartjones.com/ Bartholomew Jones

    So encouraged by this. Getting on it now.

  • Ty

    say somebody does steal my song, you are saying i cant bring up a suit at all? even if i have recordings of said song that date back before they did this?