Songwriting and Copyright

There are common headlines covering music each year involving copyright. These headlines occur when artists or songwriters have traits in their songs that are similar to another person’s song. How do you protect your songs? Well, once a song is placed in tangible form, you are granted the six exclusive rights. These rights include:

  1. Reproduce and make copies of an original work; 
  2. Prepare derivative works based on the original work; 
  3. Distribute copies to the public by sale or another form of transfer, such as rental or lending;
  4. Publicly perform the work;
  5. Publicly display the work, and
  6. Perform sound recordings publicly through digital audio transmission.

This means that to be protected by law you do not need to register your songs for copyright. 

If someone violates your copyright, then you will need to register your song(s) with the U.S. Copyright Office to take legal action. You will be able to send a cease and desist letter or sue, but if you registered your song after the infringement occurred then you will only be able to sue for profits and damages, not legal fees. 

The best time to register your songs for copyright is before you perform or release them publicly. There is no need to register your songs if they are sitting in a journal, but once they get out to the world having that extra protection is very important and worth the money. 

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