How to copyright your music is one of the first things you, an artist, ought to be learning how to do in preparation for a music release. It’s what separates the boys from the men, the amateurs from the pros, and the rhinos from the unicorns. While by legal definition, copyright is yours as soon as you affix your creation to something – paper, a recording, etc… These are ways to prove your ownership.

So buckle up your rhinestone covered seatbelt, and let me take you on this educational journey, where we dispel myths, look to the future, and empower you with the know-how to copyright your music… Here we go!

Careless  –  Doing Nothing And Hoping For The Best

In the olden days of a minuscule amount of songs being recorded (and only by signed artists, naturally), every single song had paperwork filed. But at this moment in time, when 40,000 songs are released to Spotify every single day, you can probably imagine more than a few basement-based music makers aren’t doing their due diligence. However, with DAW date stamps, track metadata, and the advent of blockchain as an audio file format, forgoing the traditional route may not be as “careless” as it once was.

Cute   –  Mailing It To Yourself 

In the wise words of my former college prof, “the ‘poor man’s copyright’ has never held up in court.”  Nevertheless, this un-slayable, many-headed, urban myth has been around for so long that even 15 year old me dutifully took lyric sheets and burnt CD’s down to my local post office every Friday after school. I recently found them while going through the closet in my old home.

Childish  –  Putting The Copyright Symbol Everywhere Online

I don’t know if anyone’s ever let you in on this, but… lean in close… laws only stop law abiding people. Similarly, placing a big fat © at the top of your video description is not exactly a deterrent for someone determined to steal your music. So demote that line to the bottom, and use the critical top visual real estate to plug your email list, latest merch, online tip jar, or tour dates instead.

Clever – Registering It With The U.S. Copyright Office

Let’s jump ahead to a method that actually works, shall we? Filling out legit, legal paperwork. This can be done in several different ways: physical paper, which costs the most per work, digital form, and new, as of March 2019, the cost effective group registration.

[As of March 15th, 2019], the U.S. Copyright Office adopted a final rule creating a group registration option for unpublished works, allowing registration of up to ten unpublished works for a single fee. […] This rule replaces the previous option to register unpublished collections, and is intended for use by individual creators or small businesses who might not otherwise use the more expensive standard registration application to register their unpublished works on an individual basis.

Colourfully Yours,

– Clarence