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Should Songwriters Copyright Their Music?

And how do you get your music copyrighted?

· Music Business

I get asked questions like this a lot:

"Should I copyright my music?"

"Is it bad to release music without copyrighting it first?"

"How do I copyright my music?"

Before I answer these questions, there are a few things I want to clear up...

Your music IS already copyrighted, whether you register it or not.

When I first got started in the world of composition + songwriting, I didn't know this. Technically, the second you put your song in a tangible form (like a recording, or lyrics + chord sheet), it's copyrighted. It's illegal for anyone to steal your work.

So you know that little © copyright symbol? Feel free to stick that on your music wherever your post it.

(Example: © 2017 Katherine M. Lott)

Here's the thing: Even though your music is technically copyrighted, you still need to register it with the US Copyright office for full protection. (Wondering if the Poor Man's Copyright will work? Here's your answer.)

How to register your copyright.

I won't go into too much detail here, because CD Baby has a great article on this.

One thing to take note of is registering your works individually vs. registering them as a collection. It's much cheaper to register a group of songs as a collection and pay a one-time fee for the group of songs. And that collection doesn't have to be a complete album or a release, it could just be something like "songs I wrote in 2016."

Your songs ARE better protected when they are registered individually, though, so make sure you've done your research before you make that decision.

My honest opinion...

Songwriting alone does not make a "hit" song.

There is SO much more to what makes a song profitable than just the songwriting: the performance of the song, the arrangement, the production, the image and personality of the artist, the fanbase that the artist has built over time (that one's huge!), and the marketing and release strategy behind the song.

I'm not going to promise you that no one is going to steal your music or violate your copyright. In fact, I know a composer who had a work stolen by a major TV network, with no credit given and no royalties paid.

But when you're first getting started, decide how much risk you're willing to take on.

Some songwriters can't stand the idea of releasing a single piece of music without first registering the copyright. If that's you, go register your songs right now so you can release those babies!

I, personally, am a little more lenient. I do have all my songs copyrighted now, but when I first started, I didn't. I figured if someone stole one of my songs, I have so many more great songs in me, so it really wouldn't be the end of the world.

So think of it as insurance - how much are you willing to spend right now for the peace of mind that if something does happen in the future, you'll be covered?

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and this is not intended as legal advice, so please consult a professional before making decisions in this area.

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