For musicians today, copyrighting your work has become easier with online filing. Once you have decided to file your music with the copyright office, the process is easy.
As mentioned in the “The basics of copyright protection for your band” article, you are afforded the protection of copyright without filing, but once you start dealing with record labels, publishers, licensing, or lawsuits, you are going to have to have your music filed with the copyright office.
At the U.S. Copyright Office website you will be able to find all the information you will need to file both electronically and by mail. Filing electronically will save you $30, however. As of this writing, the fees for filing your music are $35 for e-filing and $65 for mail-in submissions.
There are pdfs and PowerPoint presentations available that you can read and watch which will explain the process to you, but most of it is self-explanatory.
It may seem like a lot of work, but most of it is simple information like names and addresses. Be prepared before entering the filing process. If you are having trouble, either refer back to the tutorials or get help from a lawyer.
When you are ready to register your music, you will need:
- the names of all the authors of the music (so, you will need to decide as a band who – if not all of you – will be listed as the authors)
- to choose to whom the certificate will be mailed
- the year of creation and/or publication (if you have already made and distributed copies of your songs, technically you have already published the works)
- information regarding the origins of the publication
- names of claimants or correspondents that you are either signing rights over to or that you are allowing to act in your behalf
All of these issues could be sticky subjects and should be discussed prior to filing. Depending on how you have set up your band as a business, whether you are operating your own independent record label, or working everything as individuals, the information you put on the submission forms may vary.
Once you have gotten to a certain point in the registration process you will have to pay for it either by EFT or credit/debit card.
Finally, you will upload your music files. These are the current file formats you by which you may submit your music to the copyright office:
- .aif, .aiff (Audio Interchange File Format)
- .au (Audio File)
- .mid, .midi, .rmi (Musical Instrument Digital Interface)
- .mp3 (MP3 Audio File or Layer 3 Audio Compression)
- .ra, .ram (Real Audio File)***
- .rmi (Resource Interchangable File Format)
- .wav (Windows Wave Sound File)
- .wma (Windows Media Audio File)
Luckily, you can file a complete album as a collection of music and only pay one fee. To obtain a paper copy of the copyright submission form, go here.
Here is one last note about how music copyrights work when you write music as a work-for-hire. Work-for-hire is when you write music for a company like a jingle. In this case, the company owns the music and will also own the copyright.
Copyright.gov. United States Copyright Office, July 2008. Web. 1 June 2010. .
Passman, Donald S. All You Need to Know About the Music Business. New York: Free Press, 2009. Print.
Twomey, and Fox. Anderson’s Business Law and the Legal Environment. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning, 2008. Print.
Wilsey, Darren, and Daylle Deanna Schwartz. The Musician’s Guide to Licensing Music. New York: Billboard Books, 2010. Print.