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It's no myth, SONGS GET STOLEN!  And while copy­right pro­tec­tion is auto­matic (first in tangible form), the problem is PROVING it (date and content). So always pro­fes­sionally register your work right away!



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Don't be fooled by imitation sites. We are the ORIGINAL — with a proven track record.  So before considering another service, email them and ask about their owner, their location, and how they'll protect your work. If you don't get good, timely answers, DON'T RISK YOUR MUSIC!

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General Info About Music Copyrighting
— this is not legal advice (for that please contact a local attorney)   •   this is public information to help you begin your own due diligence —
→   What Are Your Rights as a Composer?

Known as "intellectual property rights," these rights are granted by federal law (with more than 160 countries having treaties honoring each country's intellectual property laws, see our FAQ #9).   These are "ownership" rights that usually got to the actual composer(s) of the original work, both the music and the lyrics. Included is the exclusive right to basically do whatever you want with the material you write (while no one else can, without your permission or without paying royalties).

If the song has just a single songwriter, figuring out who holds ownership is pretty easy. Problems, however, can arise when multiple composers are involved. If there's no prior agreement among multiple composers, the law generally assumes that everyone has an equal interest. So if you DON'T want it to be that way, make sure you have a separate written agreement which specifies what percentage each songwriter has contributed, or how to otherwise split up ownership for purposes of future royalties, sale of publishing rights, etc.  We've written a short article on this subject here.

→   Songwriters Under Hire

An exception to the actual composers of the material owning the rights is when they are "under hire" by someone else. If the songwriter(s) are employed by a person or company to specifically write lyrics and/or melodies, then the person or entity "owning" the material is that person or company hiring the songwriter(s) to do that (and NOT the songwriter).

→   What Type of Music Can Be Copyrighted

The material protected can be pretty much anything original - a beat, a full song, a musical instrumental, or just lyrics or a poem. The creator of such material is granted these exclusive rights to make copies of the music, or distribute, play it, or make new versions (or remixes) of the originals. This can also include the exclusive right to perform the song or musical piece in front of others and, except for certain situations, other people need to get the holder's permission before performing the work in public (one such exception is called the "fair use" exception, when, for example, someone who is reviewing the work uses part of it in that review.  In such cases, no permission from the song's owner is needed).

(One point many don't realize is that song titles are NOT copyrightable.  That's why you've seen many books, movies and songs with same or similar titles. Only the actual CONTENT is protected, not the title.)

And regarding exclusive rights, it works equally for both song owner and members of the public. Just as the song's owner can do what he or she wants with the material, so must the consumer HONOR the intellectual property rights of others! NOT doing so is not only illegal, it's also unethical. It's that old Golden Rule: Just as you wouldn't want someone else stealing your work, don't steal someone else's! (An example, without even realizing it, can come when you consider incorporating a "sample" of someone else's work into your own material without first getting permission or a license to do so. And since laws involving "sampling" get quite complex, we strongly urge you to speak with a lawyer before using samples.)

→   What Is Needed?

Many people, even some lawyers not familiar with these laws, are confused about the actual process and how it works legally.  While it's true that musical pieces carry automatic protection under federal law as soon as they are first put into tangible (physical) form, proving that you in fact have actual ownership rights under federal law is an entirely different matter.

"Tangible form" can mean many things: Writing down your song on a piece of paper, recording it onto a CD, making a video or audio computer file of original material (such as an mp3 version). Original material is technically "copyrighted" – meaning protection attaches – from that moment on, without you having to do anything else! NO registration with the government is required.  NO mailing copies to yourself. NO registering with a third party company is required!

But PROVING that you really wrote the original material, and when you wrote it, can be a huge problem... and usually is. So registering your material, as soon after writing it as possible, is not just a good idea, it's also the best way to ensure you have the necessary evidence to prove that you wrote the music first — a key element in virtually all such disputes.
→   The Issue

Theft of musical compositions is a much bigger problem than people think. There are many forms of it, ranging from the intentional, malicious stealing of one's work for the purpose of making money from it by claiming it as one's own, to the UNintentional use of someone else's composition (or a part of it) by just subconsciously remembering it after hearing it played and then writing it down later, truly believing it is original! But EITHER is theft (better known as "infringement" under the law). And big penalties, damages and injunctions may be awarded to the true owner as long as he or she can PROVE rightful ownership. Which is where this discussion – of what legally constitutes "ownership of an original artistic piece" – comes into play...

→   How Often Does This Happen? Should I Bother Protecting My Work? The problem is significant enough that two major law schools, USC and Columbia, have compiled a comprehensive study of the better known infringement cases involving allegedly stolen melodies and/or lyrics – both intentional and UNintentional – dating from the 1840's through the present – with the ability to compare alleged stolen material so you can decide for yourself.  Click here for that. Those examples are worth noting for the sheer amount of money at stake, to both the infringer and true owner of the work in question — which should be enough to make ALL composers question why they are not taking simple steps to protect their work!

→   The Poor Man's Copyright

What is this? This is when a person mails a song he or she has just written to his or her own address and then doesn't open the envelope. The idea is that the postmark (or registered letter date) is supposed to act as "proof" of when the song inside the envelope was written.  But...     do NOT rely on this method to protect your work!! Contrary to popular belief, it is a myth, plain and simple, and offers NO legal evidence of copyright protection whatsoever! In fact, there is not one single documented case of this EVER actually working!

And there are plenty of good reasons WHY this doesn't work — all centering on what lawyers call "problems of proof" and "authentication." First, it's just too easy to tamper with an envelope without it looking like you did, so don't expect the Court to find that your "sealed" and "postmarked" envelope is admissible evidence — it almost certainly won't be. Second, there are too many ways to "game" the system using this technique. And third, your only witnesses for authenticating this technique are you, your own equipment, and/or your friends - all "biased" and untrustworthy under the law.  We've written an article on this subject, describing this myth here.

→   Length of Such Rights

The copyright-owner - whether that's the composer(s) or those hiring the composers - has exclusive rights to all money and benefits from the material for a certain period of time. That time can vary from country to country, and can also depend on when and where the material was written. But in most cases this protection expires 50 to 70 years AFTER the death of the last living composer of the material.

→   Final Points

If you want a fast and inexpensive way to maintain certified evidence of the key elements of your copyright protection – both, the tangible-form dates of your work and the exact content of it at that time – don't risk your original music on an unproven copy-cat service or on the mythical "poor man's" do-it-yourself method. Instead, use the global leader in independent music registration with a proven track record - SongRegistration.com - as tens of thousands of composers worldwide do.

[We also recommend registering your material with the Library of Congress as well, whether you do it immediately, or after registering them with us, for several reasons: First, federal registration does grant you certain "statutory" benefits which, although not necessary, can be beneficial, both money-wise and evidence-wise. Second, before filing an actual infringement lawsuit in federal court, federal registration is usually required.]

Bottom Line:   One, ALWAYS consult with a good intellectual property attorney. Two, ALWAYS register your work as soon after creation as possible. Three, ALWAYS "police" the airwaves and all distribution outlets to make sure no one is stealing your material (because even if your material has lawful protection, no one checks for violations for you).

And Happy Songwriting!     - from the Staff at  Thank you from our staff

©  2008-  SongRegistration.com  -  All rights reserved

The Poor Man's Copyright?               Registering Muliple Composers               Registering Chords Only               Stage Name or Real Name?

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* SongRegistration.com™ does not provide legal advice or legal services and registers all material in its own archives, thereby preserving a dated, fixed record of their tangible form.  It is not affiliated, nor registers material, with the Copyright Office, Library of Congress, or any government agency (as this is not required to secure intellectual property protection), and is not affiliated with any third-party company listed herein.  By using this site, you agree to all Terms of Use.    For address info, Click Here.

The PRIME Plan has a six-month submission period and 200-song maximum (less than 50¢ per song).  If you don't renew after that, songs already registered remain registered. Renewal affects only future submissions.  (And if you DO renew, your next submission period is increased to one-year and 400-song maximum.)

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