If you’re anything like me, you probably put a lot of hard work into your music. Writing a great song takes time, effort, and emotional energy. Making a great recording can be quite the undertaking as well (although we like to think we make that part a lot easier than it used to be by providing you with great musicians and top-notch engineers). And once you have the slick, radio-ready product in the palm of your eager hand, there’s one more thing to think about: protecting your investment.
Think about it–you’ve put so much into your recording, from financial investment to personal time. The last thing you’d ever want is for someone else to take your hard work and pass it off as their own. Luckily, copyrighting is a service available to all musicians who want to legally protect their music–thereby making sure royalties and credit go to the right place!
But while most musicians know a little something about what copyright is, a lot of us don’t really know how to do it exactly… And you may be a lot more interested in spending time writing the next great song than learning about the legal ins-and-outs of copyright law.
I’m happy to report, though, that copyrighting your music is actually quite simple and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Here are the basics of what you need to know:
The 2 types of copyright to be aware of
There are two basic types of copyright that songwriters should know about: copyrighting the composition, and copyrighting the sound recording. Copyrighting the composition means you’re laying claim to the actual songwriting aspect of a song; all you really need is a demo recording to prove that you wrote it and that is a good representation of what the song sounds like–lyrics, melody, chords, etc.
Copyrighting the sound recording is registering a specific recording of a song. This doesn’t mean you own the rights to the song itself, simply that physical recording. If an artist records a cover song for an album, they obviously can’t claim the copyright on the composition. However, assuming they have legally obtained the rights to record someone else’s song, they can lay claim to the copyright of that particular recording of the tune.
Here are a couple examples of what you might want to copyright
So which type of copyright do you need? You may need one or both. For example, if you just wrote 10 songs but all you have are rough demo recordings, you may not necessarily want to copyright the sound recording. You will benefit, however, from registering the compositions so that no one else can steal the songs from you.
Or let’s say your band just recorded an album of original material that you want to shop around to record labels and radio stations. In this case, you’ll probably want to register both the compositions and the sound recording, so that you can prove that you, and you only, have the rights to use and distribute that particular record.
Where you can obtain a copyright
So now that you know a little something about what type of copyright you need, you just need to figure out how to do it. Thanks to the Internet, this is easier than ever. The US Copyright Office has a website where you can learn about copyright, find forms and even register electronically. Or if you’re still a little fuzzy on the details, websites like LegalZoom.com have pages devoted to helping you through the copyrighting process. Copyrighting a song can cost as little as around $35.
With a small amount of effort, you can protect the music that you put a huge amount of effort into through copyright. If you don’t yet have an album to protect, call Studio Pros today to get started recording something worth copyrighting!