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#18461 by Craig Maxim
Wed Jan 02, 2008 7:29 am
How To Copyright Your Songs:
A Practical View Of Copyrights

Songwriters often worry their songs will be stolen. Sometimes they are so worried, they don't show people their songs, submit songs to publishers or enter song contests.

At some point in the songwriting process, this kind of reluctant concern becomes counterproductive — even a bit paranoid.

Songwriters who take time to understand basic copyright law usually come to this conclusion: There is no reason to miss opportunities in the music business out of fear that someone will steal your songs.


When it comes to copyright protection, the main thing to remember is this: The revised Copyright Law of 1976 states that a songwriter legally owns the copyright to his/her song the moment the song is written.

All you need to do to establish a legal copyright is affix a copyright notice on your recording or lyrics. The term "affix" simply means you write your name and the year the song was written next to the copyright symbol.

The format looks like this: © YOUR NAME 2007

That's all there is to it. In fact, it's not even necessary to include a copyright notice on subsequent recordings. The writer still has copyright protection.


Because copyright law provides clear protections at the time of creation, experienced songwriters often wait to file formal copyrights (with the U.S. Office of Copyrights) until their songs are polished, rewritten, completed and ready to be published or released commercially.

When a song is finished and ready to go, it's ready to be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.


To order copyright forms from the U.S. Copyright Office, call the Federal Information Office toll-free at 1-800-688-9889

To ask specific questions about the copyright process, call the Copyright Office at 202-707-5959 or 202 707-9100. (These numbers are not toll-free).

Online you can visit the U.S. Copyright Office website to download the appropriate copyright form. They will mail it to you free of charge. Do it, and look them over carefully.

Form PA: For published or unpublished works.
Form SR: For sound recordings.

Instructions are provided at the website. The PA Form is used for copyrighting songs. The SR Form is used for copyrighting sound recordings.

Money-Saving Tip: The copyright registration fee (currently $45) covers either one song OR an entire collection of songs. So instead of copyrighting each song separately, you can save money by copyrighting many songs at the same time and registering "Collections" of your songs. For example: "Great Songs By (Your Name) 2005."

(note from Craig: I highly urge AGAINST doing the "Collections" route)

{Note: You cannot copyright an idea or a song title. Anyone can write a song about love or happiness or a lost dog. They just can't write the same song — lyric or melody.}

#18472 by Silverfoot
Wed Jan 02, 2008 3:23 pm
That's great information, Craig. I'm familiar with most of what you said, so it's nice to know that I'm doing it right! :lol: The only question I have is : why you are against the collection method of copyright? I'm asking because I've used that method a time or two...

#18474 by Craig Maxim
Wed Jan 02, 2008 4:41 pm
joseph6 wrote:
The only question I have is : why you are against the collection method of copyright? I'm asking because I've used that method a time or two...

In effect it makes a collection of songs a single item for copyright purposes. I have been told that this can make things sticky if down the line you decided to sell a single song outright, or license it. I've always been advised that it is preferable to keep the songs seperate for legal purposes. Perhaps you are licensing the entire collection at once in this manner, whether you intend to or not, or perhaps you could be inadvertently selling the entire collection, because the songs are not broken up. It would seem you need an individual copyright per song, if you intended to make some agreement for only that single song.

Someone else may be more knowledgeable on this particular matter, or maybe someone can research it further, but that is what I have been led to believe for many years. It's possible there is a way around this, or some built-in feature to handle that scenario? But I am unaware of it.

It would be good to know for sure. I just wanted to include a small warning to be safe.

#18476 by RhythmMan
Wed Jan 02, 2008 5:07 pm
Craig, you've brought up some good points.
I have experience with this; I'll address some of the other points for the folks out there.
I've done collections 4 times in a one year period, for a total of 43 songs and a total cost of $180, not counting special shipping.
Individually, that would have cost me $1935, or over 10 times as much.
Now, lets say one of those songs has tremendous potentential, and I want to break it out of the collection to set up something special with that song.
The reason not to use collections is the extra hassel of more paperwork and money to break it out of the collection.
Yeah, yeah . . . but, let me tell you brother, I'll willingly go through that hassel of paperwork, to save myself $1755.
And, even if it were to cost me an extra $500 to break out that one song (which it wouldn't), I'd STILL be $1255 ahead . . .
Hey, man, it's areallity of life; some people are poor, and without the collection method, many songs would never be copyrighted though the Library of Congress.
And, yeah, I know that bit about something being legally copyrighted at the time of writing/ recording.
Yep, it is actually true.
But, you guys have to read between the lines . . .
The copyright office is deluged with thousands of new copyright submissions every single day.
It's an overwhelming task.
And, it was becoming an IMPOSSIBLE task. No office on earth was set up to handle the sheer volume of paperwork.
Something had to be done.
I'm relatively certain that the law that says 'it's copyrighted as soon as you write it' was an attempt to be able to cope with the Herculean and impossible task of filing momentous proportions of daily submissions.
And, it's still so overwhelming, that they can't possibly even listen to your songs. They just file the CD away with the paperwork, and they only bring it out if there's a challenge.
All that being said . . . I will never post anything unless I have the copyright paperwork in hand from the Library of Congress, even if I technically don't have to.
Sure, it's easier to just write 'Copyrighted 2006, Alan Bradley' at the top.
Sure, it's more expensive and time consuming the other way. Sure, there's paperwork to fill out, and you have to stand in line at the post office. So what? It's still the safest way to handle your music.
I'm not the only person who feels this way.
Hey, people, millions of people pay car and health and life insurance every
And, Music IS my life. The copyright paperwork is my 'music insurance policy.'
I know other people feel the same way as I do.
And there is a lot of music that would NEVER be heard without that paperwork. My music included.
But - go with your gut, and do what you think is best . . .
Last edited by RhythmMan on Wed Jan 02, 2008 5:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

#18477 by Guitaranatomy
Wed Jan 02, 2008 5:10 pm
I am not worried about someone stealing my music. No one wants to steal it, they just want to put it in the recycle bin. :lol:

#18480 by Craig Maxim
Wed Jan 02, 2008 5:33 pm
Guitaranatomy wrote:I am not worried about someone stealing my music. No one wants to steal it, they just want to put it in the recycle bin. :lol:

You never know.

Willie Nelson sold a song outright for only $50 bucks called "Family Bible" rather than keeping ownership and collecting royalties. He said that "At the time I needed $50 bucks" but that song became a Top 10 hit and has been covered since, by many artists. It is considered a gospel classic, by many today. But Willie was not even given writer credits, because he sold it. Who knows how much money that song has earned over the last decades.

Luckily though, he also wrote a song called "Crazy" and kept ownership, and Patsy Cline recorded it, making it a classic, that is still played on radio today.

Be careful losing ownership of your songs, whether through stealing or selling them outright for a flat fee.

#18481 by Guitaranatomy
Wed Jan 02, 2008 5:45 pm
I think I will just higher a lawyer now that I just read all of that, lmao. Neh, I do not know, I will make sure I copyright them somehow. I am not selling my music to anyone, if they want it they have to pay big bucks (Something in the billions :D ).

I have a couple of riffs I refuse to upload, I guess that is because those I am protective over right now. So even when I get the gear to record and put music on here with, those will not come with the package (Top riffs, cannot afford to have them taken). However, I have a bunch of other pieces that are close to as good that I will throw on here. I will let everyone know when that happens.

But getting back to subject, yes, I suppose it is very important to copyright your music. God forbid you lose your song and it becomes famous, that would be devastating. I would be royally pissed. This world is so messed up, people are thieves.

Then you have, what I guess I would term, "borrowing." When musicians steal a riff from someone else to make their song. I have heard of Metallica doing that a couple of times, they just take a small piece of another song and use it as their own. Tons of people do it with Hendrix. But I do not consider that the same as taking someone’s entire song and taking credit for it.

Well that is all I have to say on this subject for now.

Peace out, GuitarAnatomy.

#18492 by loudbob1955
Wed Jan 02, 2008 7:48 pm
Great Information everyone.. I was worried about that and after going to the Site and seeing what Regulationa have changed and all, I don't mind Posting the stuff I've written and I'm working on.

Thankx for the Info,


#18528 by HowlinJ
Thu Jan 03, 2008 1:33 am
Great new pic of "The Mischivious Ones".

Pertaining to the topic of copyright law,I only delt with it some years ago when I had my first (and last) BIG HIT "I Like Ronnie's Hair"
It was when Ronald Reagan was in office. I was told that The President received a copy. I do know for a fact that the song got some airplay on WNBC by some disk jocky by the name of "Howard Stern". The record also "charted "on the nationally syndicated "Dr Demento Show".I sorta forgot about the whole thing,but all this talk about copyrights joggled my memory. I decided (this now being the age of the internet ) that I would
"Google" "I Lke Ronnie"s Hair" by "The Phillabusters" and I found a copy of the old "45" on sale for the princley sum of $8.00. Bet ya didn't know yer ol' pal "howlin" was famous! Anyways, I'm still waiten for an ASCAP cheque. :roll:

P.S. By the way Craig , is that keyboard gig still open? :lol:

#18531 by Irish Anthony
Thu Jan 03, 2008 1:54 am
wow howlinj i didnt know you were in tight with reagan(i can imagine ron and nancy rockin out to your stuff)...youre a dark horse alright..i just hope bush isnt a fan :wink:

#18534 by HowlinJ
Thu Jan 03, 2008 2:06 am
Erin T,
Ever hear of "Bush Beer?....Sure nuf aint Guiness!

#18544 by Craig Maxim
Thu Jan 03, 2008 2:42 am
HowlinJ wrote:Craig,
Great new pic of "The Mischivious Ones".

Yeah. We're changing our name to "X" that's the first promo pic. I think it reveals alot while still maintaining a certain mystery. Kudos to the new photographer! ;-)

HowlinJ wrote:P.S. By the way Craig , is that keyboard gig still open? :lol:

Gee, where were you several months back when we played a baseball stadium in Chattanooga? I was begging for some keys back then! LOL

But if you're ever down in Atlanta, you can sit in with us anytime brother!

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