The question on how to copyright your music can be daunting one. However, it is a simple task that requires minimal steps and we can do it in about less than 10 minutes.
We're going to break this post down into these three main topics:
1. Why You Should Have Music Copyright
2. Copyright Misconceptions [What You Need To Understand]
3. Global and Country Copyright [How To Actually Get Copyright]
Why You Should Have Music Copyright
Why bother have any music copyright, right? It just takes time and I don't think my song is going to become famous anyways. While you are right, it does take time, but you never know when a song of yours is going to get big. It's always when you least expect it.
Ok sure, maybe you don't want to copyright every single song you write. That would be a little much. Especially if you're writing a song every single day. However, you should consider copywriting the music that you release, for example, on Spotify or Apple Music.
But why? Tell us why!
You want to own the copyright to your music so you can claim ownership of the work and therefore you are entitled to collect all the music royalties that this specific song makes. Perhaps it is a lot, perhaps it is nothing, it doesn't matter since you own the copyright.
To get a good overview on all the music royalties out there, here's a great video on that.
Besides, when you upload your music to your music distributor you are required to except a terms of service agreement. In this agreement there should be a clause which states that you must own the copyright to the song you are uploading. Most people don't know about this and here is where things can get a little tricky...
There are two types of copyright. We will cover these two different types of copyright in section number two of this blog post: the misconceptions of music copyright.
You want to own your music copyright in order to reinforce that you own the music you say you created. What does this mean? The next example I'm about to give does not happen very often. However, it still does happen.
If you write a song and it becomes very popular. First off, congratulations and great on you for writing a hit song. But, be prepared to the consequences that could come out of it if you do not own the music copyright.
Don't take our word for it, read this article on the BBC which talks about the nine most notorious copyright cases in the music industry.
We're not saying it's going to happen to you, but someone could come along and steal part of your song and on the back of that they could go and write their own song. Maybe it goes and makes a millions of dollars. 💰
How are you going to claim that they stole part of your song if you don't own the copyright?
That would be pretty difficult, right?
It would 100% be very difficult and you would likely not be able to hold up your case if you don't have the proof of any sort of copyright. Even if you have the "poor man's copyright" (which we will discuss in section 2) this might not even be enough to make a case if it goes to court.
So, the section isn't written to scare you. It's to ensure that you realize the importance of music copyright and that you have the proof to claim that any music that you write is actually yours and you can hold this up in court with legitimate proof of music copyright.
Here's a video of a lawyer talking about "poor mans copyright" if you want to learn more about it right now but we'll also get into it more later.
Copyright Misconceptions [What You Need To Understand]
Can't I just post a song on YouTube or print a CD and mail it to myself without opening the mail?
Technically, these are forms of copyright because you are proving that the music has been officially stamped on a certain date. For example, you can post a video of you playing your song on YouTube. Let's say you post that video on January 3, 2020. And then one year later you are confronted with a copyright claim or someone decides to steal your song. Technically speaking, this YouTube video from a year ago is proof that you created this material. But sometimes this type of copyright is not enough.
Why is that?
It's not enough because it is not official. If anything is going to hold you up in court you will need an official copyright stamp.
I know what you might be saying. Ha, this will never happen to me. No one will ever steal my music and make millions off of it. Besides, I only do this for fun.
That's fair. Maybe you only do this for fun and you don't care too much about it. That's fine. Just as long as you know the consequences of whether you decide to get music copyright or not.
All this said, you are fine to do this "poor man's copyright" if this is the copyright approach that you are comfortable to go with. However, we don't recommend wasting your time printing a CD and mailing it to yourself. This technique is super out dated. Any time stamp proof will do by today's standards. But remember it might not hold you up in court.
You can read more about this poor man's copyright and how it is not a legitimate approach to register your song in a legal capacity.
Our artists at Neon Collective who are actively trying to get exposure on big Spotify Editorial Playlists have taken the time to get a copyright on their music.
Global and Country Copyright
So now that we've either convinced you or scared you off from getting music copyright, in this section we will show you how you can go about to get copyright for your music.
You might be wondering, is there a music copyright the covers me globally? Unfortunately, there is not. You will need to go to your respective country and get the music copyright there.
For example, if you are in the United States it would be copyright.gov. If you are in Canada, it would be the Canadian Intellectual Property Office. Most countries will have their own copyright or intellectual property office. It might even be called something different. If you don't know yours off the top of your head just do a quick Google search to find out.
What happens if my country does not have a copyright office?
This sometimes can happen. If so, we recommend registering your copyright with United States government.
Since we cannot show you how to copyright your music across all the different offices we will continue this post by showing you how to copyright your music in the US with copyright.gov.
Go to copyright.gov. You are going to want to find the section that says register at copyright. You have the option to register 10 unpublished works on the same application.
From this step you will need to choose a username and password for the system.
In this section you will start most likely a standard application. However, if you want to register a copyright for a song that is unpublished then you will need to register for an unpublished work.
Choose what type of work you would like to copyright. In our case, it's most likely a sound recording.
For the next 10 minutes you will need to fill out more information regarding your sound recording. You need to know the information on the following topics: