I JUST WROTE A HIT SONG! HOW DO I PROTECT IT?
You pick up your guitar and start playing. Magic happens. You have a hit song and you know it! You post the song on the internet and people love it. Suddenly, you get a pit in your stomach and realize you haven’t protected your song! What can you do? As an example, I co-authored a song “It’s Arizona Baby” that I am trying to make the new official state song of Arizona. First thing I did was to go apply for a federal copyright.
Fortunately, under the Berne Convention, most countries have an agreement where as soon as your song, music or lyrics are written down in a “tangible form” – they are already copyrighted (automatically, without the need for formal copyright registration). Given this, technically speaking you don’t really need to do anything at all in order to get copyright protection for your hit single.
However, by applying for a federal copyright, you put the world on notice of the date your song was copyrighted, and can also protect elements such as the label cover, graphics, song name, and other protected copyright protection. Having a federal copyright is also a pre-requisite to filing a copyright lawsuit in the United States. So, at least in my opinion, it is nice to get the federal copyright to prove you were the first owner of the song, and solidify that information in an official document.
In the United States, the U.S. Copyright Office can help you obtain a copyright for your song. In fact, the U.S. Copyright Office can help you copyright many other tangible creations such as literature (e-books), visual arts (pictures, graphics, photos, etc.) and even video, such as online video.
Here are some basic guidelines to follow when seeking to copyrighting your song:
(1) Put your music or song in some tangible form – This could mean putting your music on tape, a CD, a floppy disk, providing sheet music, lyrics, or some other tangible form – it HAS to be in a tangible form.
(2) Ensure that you register the song or music with the official copyright office for the United States. The home page for the U.S. Copyright office is http://www.copyright.gov/
- When you decide to copyright your song you can choose to apply for the copyright via mail or online. (Fees will vary depending on how you apply)
- For instructions and tips for requesting a copyright online visit: http://www.copyright.gov/eco/tips.pdf
(3) The U.S. Copyright office allows online filers to complete the process in 3 easy steps:
- Complete the proper registration form (there are different forms for music, art, literature, etc.)
- Pay the fee online
- Submit a sample of whatever it is you want to copyright. (The U.S. Copyright office accepts multiple file types – Mpeg, MP3, Cassette, VHS, etc.) Here is a link showing all the different file types accepted by the U.S. Copyright office http://www.copyright.gov/eco/help-file-types.html
So how long does it take to obtain copyright protection for my song?
The time the Copyright Office requires to process an application varies, depending on the number of applications the Office is receiving and clearing at the time of submission and the extent of questions associated with the application. According to the U.S. Copyright Office, current processing times are:
Average Processing Time for e-Filing: Most online filers should receive a certificate within 4.5 months. Many will receive their certificates earlier.
Average Processing Time for Form CO and Paper Forms: Most of those who file on these forms should receive a certificate within 15 months of submission. Many will receive their certificates earlier.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Whatever time is needed to issue a certificate, the effective date of registration is the day the Copyright Office receives a complete submission in acceptable form. You do not need to wait for a certificate to proceed with publication.
For a list of Frequently Asked Questions regarding the copyright process visit: http://www.copyright.gov/eco/faq.html
The copyright process is critical in helping you protect, exploit and license your original masterpiece. If you are in need of obtaining a federally registered copyright or need an attorney to help you license or defend your copyright, call The Law Offices of Steven C. Vondran, P.C. at (877) 276-5084.