In today’s digital world, music has become one of the most valuable forms of intellectual property. Music copyright is an important topic that many musicians overlook. Do you have questions about music copyright? You’re not alone. We’ve got answers for you. Read our article to learn more about music copyright. Looking for more articles like this one? Take a read through all of our free artist resources for navigating the music industry more confidently and successfully.
What is copyright law?
Copyright law protects creative works, such as songs, movies, books, and other artistic creations. It also protects the rights of performers and producers of those works. In the United States, copyright law was established by Congress in 1790. This means that the first copyright laws were passed before the invention of the printing press. Since then, the U.S. has had several revisions to its copyright laws.
How does music copyright work?
Your music is copyrighted from the moment you write it down or record it. Your music is your intellectual property and is protected as such. However, you can register your music to prove your copyright to protect you should need proof that you were the one who created the material. This can be done by formally registering your songs with the Copyright Office, but that can be expensive, especially if you have a lot of music. Federal registration of your work is the best form of protection in court if you are in a copyright dispute.
However, it is important to remember that even if you do not register your song, your work is still copyright protected. Registering your work in other locations can help protect your copyright and provide evidence that you were the first to create, release, and register a work. One location you can register your work is with your Performance Rights Organization. Registering your song with your PRO first will also prioritize you in disputes between PROs if someone tries to claim your song as theirs.
How do I copyright my songs with the Copyright Office?
You can register online or you can request forms through mail. You can do this by visiting the Copyright Office’s website or calling them at (202) 707-9100.
Do I need to copyright my music?
You do not need to register your music with the Copyright Office. While it is certainly a good protection to have, you can protect your copyright in other ways. Ultimately, the material is still yours, and formally copyrighting your material or not will not stop you from pursuing legal action in the event someone does steal your material. We have never encountered an instance where this was needed, although, if you want to be safe, go ahead and register your music with the copyright office. Just remember—your music is already copyrighted, you are just proving this by registering your music formally.
More resources for artists and music agencies
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