When you write a song and put it in fixed form, either on paper or in a sound recording, you automatically are granted copyright. As the copyright owner, you have the power to create copies of your work, distribute and perform it, and create derivative versions. For works created after January 1st, 1978, your copyright will remain intact up until 70 years after your death. For most indie artists releasing music these days, registering a copyright is neither necessary or obligatory. However, some artists choose to register their copyright with the appropriate office, depending on their country of residence, to get even more legal protection. Here’s everything you need to know about how to copyright music if you want to have even more legal protection.
1. What is copyright?
Copyright is a legal right that is granted to creators of original works of authorship, including music, poetry, novels, and other creative works. This right gives the creator the exclusive ability to reproduce, distribute, and perform their work, as well as create derivative works based on the original. Copyright works are protected by copyright law from the moment they are created, fixed in a tangible form of expression. For songs, this means that it must either be written down or recorded. This includes unpublished works and those that are not registered with the copyright office. This precedent was established back in 1886 with the Berne Convention, which dealt with intellectual property rights and determined who owns the copyright of a work.
2. Do I need to copyright my music?
The simple answer is no, you do not need to copyright your music to have basic copyright protection. Under copyright law, your music is automatically protected the moment it is written down or recorded. This means that your music is subject to copyright protection even if you don’t register it with a Copyright Office or use a copyright notice. However, registering your music with the Copyright Office does offer some benefits. It creates a public record of your ownership of the work, which can be helpful in case of infringement and if you need to take legal action. Additionally, using a copyright notice on your music can be a good idea because it lets others know that the work is protected by copyright. This may discourage potential infringers from using your music without permission.
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3. How do I get copyright on my music?
To copyright music, you first need to make sure that your work is eligible for copyright protection. To be eligible, your music must be an original work of authorship, fixed in a tangible medium of expression. This means that your music must be recorded or written down in some way that is permanent. Once you have ensured that your music is eligible, you should register it with the appropriate copyright office depending on your country of residence. With the U.S. Copyright Office, for example, registering your song online costs $45. The various fees for registering a work can be found on their website. This establishes a public record of your copyright ownership, which can be important if you ever need to sue someone for copyright infringement. It also allows you to claim statutory damages and attorney’s fees if someone infringes on your copyright. By registering your copyright, you establish a public record of ownership, protect yourself against unauthorized use, and gain access to the legal remedies available to copyright holders.
4. Should I copyright my music before putting it on YouTube?
In terms of uploading your music to YouTube, it is important to understand that the site has its own policies and guidelines regarding copyrighted material. YouTube uses a system called Content ID to identify and manage copyrighted material on its site. If you are the copyright owner of your music, there should be no issue. You can upload your music to YouTube with the basic copyright that was granted when the work was created. It is not necessary to register the work with a copyright office before putting it on YouTube.
5. How do I protect my original music?
As mentioned above, your original music is protected by copyright as soon as it is written down or recorded. You can take your copyright one step further by registering with the appropriate copyright office for added legal protection. If you decide not to register your work, you can always add the copyright symbol © next to your work and the phonogram copyright symbol ℗ for a sound recording.
Aside from copyright, it’s important to protect your original music by registering with a performing rights organization. These include BMI and ASCAP in the US, SACEM in France, SOCAN in Canada, and PRS in the UK. These organizations help collect royalties for songwriters and publishers whenever their songs are publicly broadcasted or performed. Make sure that you are affiliated with one of these organizations so that you can register your songs and collect royalties. This is a good way to protect your original music and also keep track of where it is being broadcasted.
In conclusion, as the author of an original creative work that is fixed in tangible form, you are the copyright holder. You hold exclusive rights to distribute your work as you wish. By registering the work with United States Copyright Office, if based in the US, you can ensure further protections if your work is infringed upon and you need to take legal action. We hope that won’t be the case!