Copyrighting Music

As an artist just entering the scene, many questions often come to mind. One of these questions is likely “How can I protect my work?” In other words, “How can I copyright my work?”

The process of copyrighting music is not terribly involved, but it is also often taken to be more than it actually is. If we want to be absolutely technical about it, anything you create yourself after January 1st, 1978 is automatically copyrighted to you. The problem herein lies that this is hard to prove.

Some may resort to a “poor man’s copyright” in which they mail a copy to themselves and leave it unopened, giving it a dated seal by the postal service, effectively allowing it to be used in court in any sort of dispute of ownership. This is not quite enough, given today’s technology and the capability to create fraudulent evidence for these kinds of claims. The best solution is actually to register your work with the library of congress. These days, this can be done online through the Library of Congress  for a nominal fee. Their eCO service allows the registration of works online. A guide to eCO online registration is available at the end of this document.

Works should also be submitted to the various organizations that you use for managing your performing rights. Several examples of these organizations are ASCAP, SESAC, and BMI. More information on performing rights organizations can be found at Artists House Music.

One mechanism often confused with an alternative to Copyright is Creative Commons. Creative Commons licenses can be summed up as “some rights reserved” licenses instead of the typical “all rights reserved” licenses many think of or see when buying copyrighted works. Creative Commons henceforth referred to as CC can be used in tandem with existing copyright licenses to modify the terms of these licenses to better suit your needs and desires to determine how your work is used. These licenses are designed to work all around the world, so your work gets the recognition you want.

These CC licenses are free; they don’t cost any additional money than the initial registration with the Library of Congress uses. This process is very simple and does not take very much time. A link to the page that handles this process is at the end of this document.

CC licenses allow you to determine whether to allow commercial use of your work, and whether or not it can be modified. If it can be modified, you may specify whether modifiers must use the same license you are using.

Creative Commons does not keep a record of your license as it is not a registrar of licenses.