How to Copyright a Song

Under international law, copyright is the automatic right of the creator of a work. This means that as soon as you write down a song or make a recording, it's copyrighted. In order to enforce the copyright, though, you'll need to be able to prove your ownership. In the US, that means you need to register your song with the U.S. government's copyright website. This will make it much easier to assert your rights if your copyright is infringed. Read on to learn more about how to protect your song with a copyright.

Method 1 EditRegistering Your Song Online

Make a copy of your song. You could make a CD, USB drive, mini-disc, cassette tape, MP3, LP, record it on video, or write out the sheet music. All of these methods may be used to create a hard copy recording of your song. As soon as it's recorded, it's copyrighted - now you just need to have it registered.

Go to the US government's copyright website. Click on the Electronic Copyright Office, where you can make an online copyright filing. Registering online is simple, and it will take about 4.5 months to be processed. This is a much shorter process than registering by mail, which can take up to 15 months. [1]

Register a free account. Click on "new user" to open your account. You'll need to give your name, address, country (if not from the USA), phone details, and preferred contact method.
Once you have an account opened, you can use this every time you'd like to make a copyright application. The account allows you to monitor your applications and to find various types of information concerning copyright. There is also a tutorial on making a claim provided.

Complete your online copyright application. Click on "Register a New Claim" under "Copyright Services," located in the left hand column of your account. Be prepared to answer questions about yourself, the work you're seeking to copyright and where you'd like the copyright certification to be sent.

Pay the $35 fee. You can pay via either credit or debit card, electronic check, or a copyright office deposit account.

Upload an electronic copy of your work. Many types of files are accepted, but check the Copyright Office's complete list to ensure that you're not sending in an incompatible file.[2]
If you prefer not to send an electronic copy, you can send a hard copy (non-returnable) and it has to be sent in a box, not an envelope. You can make a shipping address slip from the site.

Wait for your copyright application to be processed. You can log back in to your account to check the status of your claim at any time.[3]

Method 2 EditRegistering Your Song by Mail

Obtain form CO.[4] You can either download it from the US Copyright Office website or call the office at (202) 707-3000 and request that the forms be sent to you. You may also request the form you need by mail at US Library of Congress, Copyright Office, Independence Avenue, S.E., Washington, D.C. 20559.
Form SR is the right form to fill out to register a copyright for sound recordings.
Form PA, the form for performing arts recordings covers recordings of live performances.
Form CO may be used for any type of sound recording or performing arts recording.[5] Since the fee for forms PA and SR is currently $65 and the fee for form CO is $45, consider carefully which meets your needs most. Visit for more information.

Fill out the form. Read the instructions carefully and fill it out exactly how it is explained. If you have any questions, contact the Copyright Office.

Place required materials into a Package. The Package should include the filled out form, the specified payment, and a non-returnable copy of the song.

Send your package to the US Copyright office. Mail it to the following address: Library of Congress, Copyright Office, Independence Avenue, S.E. Washington, D.C. 20559-6000.

Wait for the certificate of registration. Have patience because this part of the registration process can take a while. It can take up to 15 months if you've filed by mail, according to the Copyright Office FAQ, and averages around 8 months currently. The good news is that your copyright is effective from the day that your materials are received by the Copyright Office. You'll receive a certificate of registration when it does arrive.

ethod 3 EditKnowing What to Avoid

Avoid poor man's copyright. There is a long-standing myth in the music industry that the old-fashioned fix of recording a song, placing it in an envelope and mailing it to oneself guaranteed copyright. The post date on the stamp was supposed to serve as proof of the date of origin of the song, provided the envelope remained sealed. However, this method didn't stand up in various court cases and has since been discredited.[6] Moreover, given that your copyright exists on creation, and that an envelope's seal can be carefully unsealed and resealed, this method does seem rather fallible.

Be aware of the Berne Convention. If your country is a member of the Berne Convention, copyright in a song comes into existence when you create it. It does become more complicated when there are several creators who have contributed to the song, but there are rules governing these "layers." It's best to seek legal advice in that situation.
The U.S. copyright office is the only one among the Berne Convention's member countries offering a method to register content of the song (lyrics, melody, chord, etc.). Unfortunately in all other countries, only the title of the song is recorded. The value of the protection afforded is significantly reduced.

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