Protecting Your Original Songs

I want to paint a short scenario for you of why it is so important to "copyright" and "register" your music -- not saying it would happen but it could. If some unscrupulous person "looking for that next big song idea," hears your song before you copyright it, and, after hearing it at your gig or standing outside of the garage, records, on their own, the guitar line and vocal; and then "registers" the song as their own, ironically, you as the real original songwriter could someday have to prove in the Courts that you originally created the song -- keeping in mind, the law could most likely be on the registrant's side, not you, since they registered the song first. And, who knows, this may even be that next Top 10 song.
  • For a complete listing of how to obtain copyright protection, check with the Library of Congress's Copyright Office website ( For the most popular, easiest and less expensive methods, here is a brief description of the steps that are involved in getting your original composition or song registered and protected.
  • Obviously, the most common (and I believe best) is by depositing a "Sound Recording" of one or more of your original musical compositions. After mixing down your song [hereinafter "composition"], down to two tracks (whether it's a master or even a demo with just a guitar and vocal track), you are ready to register the song(s).
  • Combine as many composition(s) into one "Sound Recording" submission as possible to save on additional Filing Fee(s).
  • At the Copyright Office website, there are forms for many different types of Registrations. The primary one for Music Composition(s) is Form SR / Form SRu short for Sound Recording (Published / UnPublished, respectively). Until you are comfortable with filling these out, make sure to download the one that has Instructions.
  • There are two methods for submitting and registering your Composition(s) with the US Copyright Office (for those in other countries, please check with your local country for their methods) -- US Mail and Online. Regardless of the method chosen, US Copyright Office reports that they will provide Certification Document in approximately four (4) months:
    • MAILING -- $65 Filing Fee - If choosing this method, Submissions should be sent via US Certified Mail Return Receipt Requested to protect composition(s) while waiting for Certification Document (at the same time, mail to yourself one exact copy of Submission with media for your own records after receipt back, keep it sealed in its postmarked envelope until the Certificate is received). The CD or Tape registration submission can contain as many compositions that will fit on one media format. If SRu (unpublished), one copy of media is required and if SR (published), two copies of media (such as the final CD) are usually required.
    • ONLINE -- $35 Filing Fee - Submission of MP3 media and Form are done entirely online - instructions provided. Although Certification Document will be sent out several months after, there is an immediate confirmation receipt of the submitted materials. Currently, online is the recommended method of submission. The Form is filled out online and, after an online payment of the Filing Fee, the Composition(s) can be uploaded via MP3 upload using the Copyright Office's website. This method of registration submission can also contain numerous number of composition(s) provided they are all completed prior to completing "Submission".
  • Alternatively, although it is not recommended, and is not a substitute for copyright registration of your works, you can mail yourself a sealed copy of your recorded composition(s), with a clear postmark from the Post Office. Once you receive the package, do not open it, just log it and file it away. This is your only proof that you developed the material as of the date of the postmark. Then, as soon as possible, make the decision to properly register your composition(s) with the Copyright Office. When you do register the Composition(s), keep this previously postmarked sealed package with the later received Certificate.
Enjoy the peace of mind knowing you are hearing that new "copyrighted" song of yours on IMRadio, or other places, or are playing it out at your next gig. Here's Hoping You Have a Healthy, Happy and Prosperous New Year.