Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog

Training & insights for stage and studio singers, speakers, vocal coaches and producers from professional vocal coach and author of "Power, Path & Performance" vocal training method.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

How and When Should You Copyright A Song?

Your songwriting is a form of intellectual property, and as such, it falls to you to protect it from theft. There are different levels of protection you can use.
  • There is the paper and electronic trail... dated lyric sheets, worktape recordings, emails to cowriters, etc. NOTE: The 'poor man's copyright' (sending your song through certified and unopened mail to yourself) has long been debunked as useless.
  • Also... it's a good idea, as suggested in this article at professorpooch.com, to include the little circled 'c' copyright symbol and the name of the owner of the song in any lyric you share publically.
  • Then there is the official copyright you file at www.copyright.gov. My strong suggestion is to use the less expensive eCo service and file online. If doing it for the first time, go to this link and register as a new user. Learning how to work the steps will be a learning curve for you; if possible, get someone who has done it before to walk you through the first song.

There is a controversy as to whether or not you need an official US copyright.

  • The common practice of the big publishing houses is to only copyright when the song gets cut (recorded as a master for public release). This is a good idea; if you write a lot of songs, it can get far too expensive to pay the copyright fee (currently $35) for each one.
  • The long held view was that you would need the official copyright if you wanted to sue someone for copyright infringement. According to a 2011 article at NewMediaRights, you can file for copyright any time... even after the infringement occurs...  and still be able to sue, but unless you've copyrighted within three months of publication, you can't get the 'statutory damages' that make the expense of suing worth doing it. 

The "Collection" solution:

  • That said... if you are the sole writer or if you have the same cowriter(s) and publisher(s) on lots of songs, you should look into copyrighting them as a collection. Scroll down to page 5 in this document to read about collections. That way you only pay one fee (I think now it's $55) for as many songs as you want to include in a collection.
Protection against BEING sued is another reason to copyright your songs. Note the dates of creation, and do include that little symbol at the top of this blogpost. Don't be paranoid, but do be smart and take care of business.

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