How to Copyright Your Music

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How to Copyright Your MusicWhy independent songwriters should register the copyright for their music

[This article is written by guest contributor Anthony Ceseri.]

Please Note: This article discusses opinions on copyrighting your music and should not be considered legal advice. If you’re unsure about how the copyright laws in your country will affect you, please contact a lawyer before proceeding.

When you submit a song for copyright you’re simply proving the date of submission of your work. The fine folks of the copyright office don’t sit around listening to every submission to see if they’ve heard it before. That would be an impossible task. When you write or record your song, technically, you’ve created it — and thus you own the copyright to it. By submitting a song to the copyright office, you’re protecting your music simply by acknowledging the date of its creation.

It’s also important to note that certain aspects of your song are not protected even if you’ve registered the copyright. These include:

* chord progressions

* the overall idea or concept of your song

* and a title or short phrase

Just think about how many songs have used cliche ideas like “I wish you were here,” or “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Also, imagine how many copyright infringements there would be if the I – V – vi – IV chord progression could be copyrighted. On the other hand, melodies and the actual lyrics are very much covered under copyright protection.

Beginning the copyright registration process

The website for submitting your song for copyright in the United States is On this website, you’ll be able to print forms for mailing in the music you want to copyright, or you can submit your music for copyright online, which makes submitting even easier.

When it comes time to copyrighting your music, there are two forms you can use as a songwriter. They are Form SR and Form PA. Technically, there are three forms, if you consider the fact that there’s also a short-form version of the PA form. But that offers the same protection as the PA form. SR stands for Sound Recording, while PA stands for Performing Arts. So how do you know which one to use? The following is from the Copyright Office’s website and will answer that for you:

When to Use Form SR (Sound Recordings)

Use Form SR for registration of published or unpublished sound recordings, that is, for registration of the particular sounds or recorded performance.

Form SR must also be used if you wish to make one registration for both the sound recording and the underlying work (the musical composition, dramatic, or literary work). You may make a single registration only if the copyright claimant is the same for both the sound recording and the underlying work. In this case, the authorship statement in Space 2 should specify that the claim covers both works.

Form SR is also the appropriate form for registration of a multimedia kit that combines two or more kinds of authorship including a sound recording (such as a kit containing a book and an audiocassette).

When to Use Form PA (Performing Arts)

For registration purposes, musical compositions and dramatic works that are recorded on disks or cassettes are works of the performing arts and should be registered on Form PA or Short Form PA. Therefore, if you wish to register only the underlying work that is a musical composition or dramatic work, use Form PA even though you may send a disk or cassette.

Examples of the Proper Use of Forms PA and SR

Jane Smith composes words and music, which she entitles “Blowing in the Breeze.” Even though she records it, she is not interested in registering the particular recording but only in registering the composition itself. If she decides to submit “Blowing in the Breeze” for copyright registration, she should use Form PA.

Emily Tree performs and records Jane Smith’s “Blowing in the Breeze” after complying with permissions and license procedures. If Emily decides to submit her recording for copyright registration, she should use Form SR.

The same principles apply to literary and dramatic works. A recorded performance of an actor speaking lines from “Hamlet” could be registered on Form SR as a sound recording. The claimant in the sound recording, of course, has no copyright in the underlying work, “Hamlet.”

Copyright registration costs…

There is a cost associated with each application, whether it’s a Form PA or From SR. Check the Copyright Office’s website for the most up-to-date fees. The good news is, if you’re copyrighting your own music, you can submit multiple songs under one application for one application fee. So if you’re copyrighting an album of ten songs, as opposed to copyrighting them one by one, you’ll save a few hundred bucks when protecting your work. Plus it saves you the paperwork of copyrighting all of your songs separately.

Poor-Man’s Copyright, and Other No-No’s

It’s also worth mentioning that there are a couple makeshift copyright alternatives that songwriters occasionally like to talk about. I don’t recommend doing these. The most popular is called the “Poor Man’s Copyright.” This is when you physically mail a recording of your song to yourself via certified mail and keep it sealed. Supposedly the postmark on the envelope will date your music and therefore protect you if someone comes along after that and steals your song. A newer version of this idea is simply putting your song on YouTube or another time-stamped social media outlet. The idea is that your music is dated and therefore protected by the time stamp on the social media site.

All I can say about these kinds of alternatives is — DON’T DO THEM! Their ideas may make sense to you, but if it ever came down to a court battle, you would absolutely want your music properly registered with the copyright office. Especially considering the fact that it’s really not that expensive if you submit a whole collection of songs at once. Taking the proper means to protect your music is something all artists should do as they move forward with their music careers.

Now that you have a background on how to get your music copyrighted, move forward with the process so you can get your music out to the masses and get heard!

For a lot more useful songwriting information, grab my free EBook here:

Guide: Make More Money From Your Music

[Copyright image from Shutterstock.]

In this article

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  • It should also be clarified that, according to US Copyright law, a new creative work is copyrighted at the moment of creation, and that all rights for that work reside with the creators immediately. However, registering your copyrights with the US Copyright office provide some additional benefits, including: 1) a level of proof as to the creation of the work, and 2) additional statutory damages, should the copyright owner win in litigation related to that copyrighted work.

    • Mike Halloran

      That only applies to Unpublished works. Published and Unpublished works have different sets of rights and rules. Published works are not protected unless registered properly.

  • Correct me if I'm wrong, but when I took the course on copyright law (circa 1978), submitting an album or collection of songs was not recommended because if someone "lifted" a song off a 12 song album, the author would only be entitled to 1/12 the normal compensation for infringement.

    • I haven't heard that lately, so I'm not sure if the laws have changed in that regards — but hopefully some of our lawyer-friends will weigh in here to set the record straight.


    • Mike Halloran

      Your info is wrong but your statement is so vague that there is no correct answer.

      It depends on what you mean by “lifted” which generally implies theft. Theft means that someone else is claiming ownership. Such actions are entirely subjective and your formula is meaningless. Every case is different.

      If by “lifted” you mean covered, this is subject to the standard rate of 9.1¢ if under 6 minutes and the statutory rate if over 6′.

      Of course the only way to register an album as published is to declare that all 12 (in your example) are one song for the purposes of Form PA. Theoretically, this could mean that one could cover, say multiple parts (titles) of the one work and only owe the statutory rate for one song instead of 9.1¢ per song.

      Unpublished works and improperly/unregistered published works do not enjoy the right to compensation. There are people who cover songs, look up the certificates and pay only if properly registered. When the publishers complain to an attorney, the first thing they are told is to register properly. Compensation is only owed from the date a properly registered work is registered on Form PA (or SR where PA is checked). On SR with multiple titles, only the first song is protected if PA is checked if the additional titles are not claimed as multiple parts of one song.

      The LOC really wants their $35 per song and the law is rigged so that you are highly motivated to pay it.

  • The descriptions of SR and PA are still kind of confusing.

    If I write my own songs, record them, and release them digitally on iTunes, should I be using the SR form?

  • Hey Jim,

    Yep. SR form will cover you for the sound recording and the underlying composition.


    • Rebbe17

      What if you get an SR copyright for a song that was recorded a while back but then re-record it later? Would you then have to get it copyrighted again? I ask this b/c we plan on re-recording some of our songs, that we’re not happy with the original recordings, when we can afford to.

      Also, can I just put 20 songs on a CD and have them copyrighted, or does it have to be an “album”?

      And what if they are co-written? Say, I wrote the music to half (10), someone else wrote the music to the other half (10), and someone else wrote the lyrics to all 20? What’s the best way of going about this? B/c almost none of our songs are written by one person. They’re usually- one person writes the music and another writes the lyrics.

      Thanks, and sorry for the multiple ?’s. Just trying to figure the best and cheapest way to get our songs protected without too much headache.

  • Excellent point, Paul. Please be advised, the added benefits that come with registration are only available if registration occurs prior to infringement or within three months of first publication of the copyrighted work.

    One benefit you didn't mention is an attorneys' fee award — in other words, the court may require the infringer to pay the prevailing plaintiff's attorney's bills. This benefit alone can make all the difference in whether an infringement suit may be worth filing.

    I am worried that may readers may not understand what your reference to "statutory damages" means. It's an often misunderstood concept. Here's an article that may shed some light on the subject

    Copyright, Trademark and Entertainment Attorney

    • Hey Ian,

      Thanks so much for sharing that clarifying info. Very helpful.


    • Stanislav Lekarev

      I am in the process of copyrighting songs and I see you know the real deal because you are an attorney. Can you please explain to me how I can file my song for composition copyrights of the music and lyrics but file the sound recording I will selling on itunes under my “Band Name LLC” I filed my artist name as a company then trademark so it is its own basically artist/record label now I can release music myself. I did a lot of research and I am still confused. Would I basically file a sound recording copyrighting the music and lyrics with a PA form, then go back and file a SA form with another sound recording under my “BAND NAME LLC” which copyrights the sound recording I would be selling right?

      • Generally, one registration can cover a sound recording and the underlying composition/lyrics, so you will not need to go back to file a second registration on the same work.

        I am a bit unclear as to how you wish to incorporate your business into the registration but one common approach would be to name yourself as the author (along with anyone else who contributed) and your company as the owner/claimant.

        You may need to prepare a written transfer agreement assigning ownership of the copyright to your business for it to be the owner/claimant.

        Again, this is just one approach I often see and not specific legal advice for your situation. Nevertheless, I hope it is helpful to you.


        • Stanislav Lekarev

          Thanks. Great advice. Well my songs I will copyright as the songwriter but when I sell them on itunes I want to sell them under my BAND NAME. My band name is filed as a llc for legal protection and im gonna trademark it. I hope that clarifies things, but the songs will be owned by me under legal name. So how do I make the two connect?

  • MotherFBR

    Could you write a similar article on how to register your songs under a creative commons licence, that would be great.

  • WIRE_C

    I was able to send online up to 4 MP3's (songs/SR) at….. all for 35 $. Each SR submission is 35 dollars. You could also print the form SR (sound recording) and send your material in by usps mail. It is a good idea to do it before you put your songs "out there" online and it is easy to follow the steps.

    • Alfred Anthony

      The Internet Archive will register your work for free and you can attribute a Creative Commons license at the time of registration. I upload a monaural lo-res version of my work, and it’s legal. In case of a dispute you can request a record of the upload that is notorized. An affidavit and a fee is required. Here is an example of one of my deposits:

  • Rob Reed

    Hi Tom:

    Absolutely not true.


  • Angie Louise

    I'm about to copyright an album containing 11 of my own songs and 1 cover track. I will own the copyright to the sound recording of the whole album, and the underlying composition of 11 out of the 12 tracks. Can I still copyright the underlying composition of the 11 songs as a collection (instead of having to pay a separate fee for each)? My guess is that I could do both a SR copyright for the sound recording of the whole album, and a PA copyright for the collection of 11 songs (excluding the cover). Does that sound correct? Thanks for your help!

  • ShaunBlairMusic

    Thank you CD Baby! Once again you show the world why you are one of the leaders for independent music. Reminds me… I need to get my music on CD Baby… LISTEN HERE>>

  • That'd be a trademark — and you should definitely register it. Check out


    • Aaron Geis


  • Aaron Geis

    Can you offer any advice on copyrighting a band name / band logo? Thank you.

    • Mike Halloran

      Band names cannot be copyrighted in the US. You are talking about registering trademarks – these are handled by the US Patent office. Most states also have laws concerning trademark registration as well.

      You can register the copyright on an image but it is not the same as protecting it as a trademark. Registering and protecting a trademark can be inexpensive in many states. Protecting a trademark for the US and internationally is often very expensive. Trademarks must be both registered and protected. There are books on the subject and attorneys who do this for a living.

  • CiaranOR

    Another clarification, regarding copyright registration outside the US – there may not be a copyright office in your country. In my case, the Republic of Ireland, there is no official way to register copyright beyond the moment of creation. And in fact, the web sites of both IMRO (the Irish performace royalties collection agency) and the Irish Patents Office recommend the ‘poor man’s copyright’ method of sending yourself the work by registered mail. Perhaps it would be worth ammending the article, to change this method from a ‘no-no’ to a ‘maybe, if you happen to live outside the US’?

  • Cory

    I honestly feel that in today's age, a pile of accounts with your music up and dated by the site combined with a physical dated C.D. with invoice from diskmakers and a cd baby account should be more than enough evidence in a legal battle.

    • It might be enough to prove that you own the copyright, BUT — registering your copyright with the LoC affords you certain minimum protections in the event that a court rules in your favor in an infringement case. So, you might win the case either way, but you'll probably be awarded more in damages if you registered copyright with Library of Congress.


  • So — you can (and should) register the copyrights for the sound recording of those new versions (not the composition, as you've already registered those, right?). But you should be able to just put them all on a CD and register them all as one collection. Meaning, you shouldn't have to register it as a formal album meant for distribution in that particular format.

    As for the co-writer questions, I'm not exactly sure — but I'll bet you can find the answer at the LoC's website. And I suspect they'll want you to register one group of ten with one set of co-writers listed for those songs, and then another set of ten songs registered with the other co-writing group info.


    • Rachel Brown

      The site is not the only place I saw where you can submit your music (melody, recording, lyrics), but I found an international website with good prices. They also have a chat there where you can ask any questions in regard to copyright and they seem to be very customer oriented. I think you also do not have to renew the copyright but it is valid for life.

  • Alfred Anthony

    Why is there no mention of Creative Commons in this piece? It is a legal and binding form of copyright registration and it's generally free. I register my music with the Internet Archive.

    • Mike Halloran

      The Library of Congress has established rules under which Published Works (those made available to the public) may be protected. You may look them at Although there’s been a lot of tangled and confusing decisions involving software licensing and CC, in every case, it has cost a lot of money to defend and/or pursue. Songs are pretty straight forward. The LOC says $35 a Published Work protects your right to be paid for its use (a right that Unpublished Works and published works not properly registered do not enjoy – look it up).

      I have searched and searched and have yet to find a single instance where CC protected a songwriter’s rights in court – not one. I’m not a lawyer and don’t subscribe to law blogs but I do keep my ear to the ground on this issue. Perhaps an attorney can enlighten us all on how CC actually benefits songwriters. Otherwise, I just see it as a way to let Google (YouTube) et all legally make billion$ off of people’s music without paying for it. No thank you – $35 per song is cheap.

      • Rebecca Schmoyer

        Should I be copyrighting each song individually?

        I submitted the sound recordings of my CD with six songs online under one album title. As far as I remember, I was able to upload all six of the mp3s on the copyright site. However, when I just checked the copyright record online, I can see only the CD title and one song title on the record. The copyright record says [My Song Title] and then et al. I am now wondering does this copyright cover all the songs I uploaded under the album title? Or should I resubmit the songs individually?

        Does anyone know if there is a way I can make sure they have listed all the song titles on a record of the copyright somewhere?

        • I’m not sure about the verification process, but I do know that protecting your sound recording as a whole also protects the individual compositions.


  • John

    I would like to register the lyrics and the music of an album that contains 12 songs, what I would like to know is 1) Do I only have to send the mp3’s? or 2) Do I have to send mp3’s and also a doc file with the lyrics? or What should I do?

  • Clara P

    Hi I live in the UK – please please tell me how to copyright my songs in the UK – I will be very grateful!

  • Hey John,

    I'm sorry it's taken this long to respond. I think your comment got buried way down at the bottom of the system we use for moderating blog comments. Anyway, to be certain, I'd recommend checking out the FAQ section of the Library of Congress' copyright website. But my hunch is that you can just send the MP3s, as the lyrics — as sung — are part of the compositions that are evidenced on the recording/s.


  • Thomas

    I’m trying to copyright my EP and I’m wondering is there anyway to upload the recordings to the website after filling out the SR? how does that work with filling out one application for multiple pieces of work?

  • Tony Pace

    To register multiple songs under one copyright fee, do you list all the titles? What is the best way to register so you can access one or more in case there is ever a legal battle

  • Mike Halloran

    Poorly researched articles like this should never be distributed by DiskMaker. There are major problems. The biggest is the implication that you can register your album under one form for one fee and still have your rights protected. I am not an attorney but did the law change and I miss it? Last I checked, only multiple Unpublished Works can be registered on one PA. An album is something that you intend to distribute to the public (for sale or not doesn’t make a difference) – by that definition, any work on an album is Published. Published Works have different rights and you lose their protections by not registering correctly. That means one Published Work to a PA. Putting them all on an SR only protects the first if PA. BTW, you publish your Works whenever you make them available to the public (the root of publish) including a public YouTube account. The reason that articles like this are so bad is that, despite the disclaimers, because it’s on the internet and people will believe what they read. Oh yea, another disclaimer: this is my opinion only.

    • Anthony

      This is directly from It applies to unpublished works and published works in an album:

      Can I register a collection of works with a single application?

      A collection of works may be registered with a single application if either of the following requirements is met:

      The collection is made up of unpublished works by the same author and owned by the same claimant; or
      The collection is made up of multiple published works contained in the same unit of publication and owned by the same claimant.

      • Mike Halloran

        “Multiple published works contained in the same unit of publication and owned by the same claimant” does not apply to individual songs.

        You may only list unpublished songs on a single Form PA. If you list multiple published songs on an SR, only the first is protected under PA.

        Published and unpublished songs have different rights.

  • Seu

    Hi all.

    We should not confuse CC and copyright protection. CC is all about how to share your creation (which rights you grand and which you dont.). In other words, how do you allow others to use it (or not). Has nothing to do with protection your own copyright. Copyright protection is all about PROOF of ownership. The earlier (in time) and the stronger, the proof, the better.

    my 2 cents.


  • digitalguy010

    Yep, ~sigh~…sounds like $35 / song, folks.

  • Katey

    Hi Ian,

    I have a handful of songs I’d like to copyright but I’m constantly changing words & musicality. If I copyright my songs right now, would I have to re-copyright them once I have a version that I commit to performing in public? Or potentially put on an album and sell?


  • You own the copyright to all those versions of that song, as soon as they’re set down in a fixed format (recording, notation, etc.). However, you probably should register your copyright with the Library of Congress once you’ve settled on the version that will be heard by the most people.

    @ Chris Robley


    “Jane Smith composes words and music, which she entitles “Blowing in the Breeze.” Even though she records it, she is not interested in registering the particular recording but only in registering the composition itself. If she decides to submit “Blowing in the Breeze” for copyright registration, she should use Form PA.”

    My question: If Jane Smith later records a version of “Blowing in the Breeze” for release on iTunes etc., would she then have to file an SR copyright form for the same song in order to protect that particular recording of the song, or is her preexisting PA copyright enough to protect the new version of her song?

    • Captain Piccard

      Did you ever find out the answer because this is what I’m wondering… not even if it’s a different version of the song she later records, even if it’s exactly as the sheet music is written…. does the PA protect your recording of the song which you make later?

      OR vice versa?
      Does a SR copyright protect you from having people learn your work from the recording and then make their own recordings of your song? Or is the SR recording there just to stop people from for example using a clip of your song in a movie they are making?

      Does a PA ultimately cover everything then? If you’re a songwriter & recording your own music videos,,, does a PA or an SR cover everything or should you get both?

  • Michelle

    Is it necessary to submit a sound recording for copyrighting, or is it enough to register the lyrics?

  • Well, you own the copyright on both music and lyrics as soon as they’re fixed in a permanent format. But if you only register the lyrics with the Library of Congress, then only the lyrics will be guaranteed full protection in the event that you win a case where your rights have been infringed upon. You might still win in regards to the music, too, but better that your copyright to BOTH the music and lyrics be registered.


    • Michelle

      Thank you! I read that chord progressions aren’t copyright-able. Does this mean the actual tune is not yours?

  • Well, if by “tune” you mean melody — then yes, that’s copyright-able. But not chord changes. I don’t know how extremely that is translated though. I mean, if you played me the chord changes to Penny Lane with a different melody, I’d instantly recognize it as a Beatles song and feel like McCartney would be owed some money. Some judges might agree, I’m not sure.


  • AZ

    In the hip-hop genre in most cases there is the producer and the writers and in many cases writers. Now if I am the artist with an album where I have written all the songs with a few co-writers on there (features), all the songs are produced by different producers and I am the recording artist on all of them along with featured recording artists who are performing their own written lyrics, how would I go about registering this project?

    – Would i register both PA and SR?
    – Would I be able to register this as a body of work (meaning a one time submission at $35) ?
    – What about songs where I am the writer, performer but there are no featured artists, only a producer/composer?
    – Are split sheets needed in cases like these to copyright? If not, what exactly are the split sheets used for? Basically, when are they used?

  • Marco Théo

    hi Foks,

    here is a tips for all readers who are not living in US (just like me). unfortunatly US copyright office is the only one providing a mecanism to register your actual work. in all others countries, you only can register the title of your song. So what is the value of a song recordal if you can’t link to its lyrics or melody? Close to nothink…

    this why, I’m using this web site gives me a time-stamped and a third party evendence of my creation. Both are linked in a thrusfull certificat, made by “copyright and intellectual property expert lawyers”, that well be reconaize in court, almost around the world, as a irrefutable proof of the date your registered the song.

    there is other site giving you third party evendence, like (in french only) or and my sure there are others. if you found on better then those, please let me know


    (please excuse any writting mistake, english is not my first language)

  • Thanks for sharing the links, Marco.


  • JHeape

    So, I’m confused. Can I just put a recording of my song on a CD and send it in with the SR form? And does my song have to be written in form of sheet music (it is a piano solo with no lyrics) to copyright the PA?

  • Daniel Risk

    I know it’s kinda late , but what could happen if I want to publish a song ( I put copy rights to the song) but they told me that I will have my certificate in 6 or 8 months ?

  • Sunny Rebel

    Hi I live in Australia and I’m managing a musician, this was a od read for me because I know nothing about copyrights. Does anyone know now its done or where to look for people in Australia? Thank you n advance

  • Sunny Rebel

    Hi I live in Australia and I’m managing a musician, this was a od read for me because I know nothing about copyrights. Does anyone know now its done or where to look for people in Australia? Thank you n advance

  • It’s ok. As long as you’ve registered your copyright, you can move forwards. Besides, you own your copyright the moment your song is fixed in a permanent format.


  • Martha Colby

    I’m trying to copyright a CD which is a mix of cover tunes, original tunes, and tunes that are in public domain. I have mech rights for all of the covers, and listed all of the composers. I have also submitted PA copyright forms for my original tunes, but now am stuck at the portion of the app asking for claimant information. Would I be the claimant for all and submit all of my licenses??

  • Well, you’re claiming the copyright to ALL the sound recordings, but only claiming the copyright to composition for original songs. Does it allow you to make that distinction?


    • Martha Colby

      I already copyrighted my songs individually, I’m just trying to copyright the sound recording of all songs.. I filled out all of the composer credits, but am really confused about the part where it asks who the copyright claimants are… Am I the soul claimant of the sound recording, or do I have to go through and list the publishing companies of each of the other composers? Thanks for your response, btw.

  • ClikFire

    What if I legally start my own Music publishing company through BMI or ASCAP? Do I still have to fill out forms for any new songs I write and record?

  • Yes. Affiliation and registration with BMI or ASCAP is not the same thing as registering your copyright with the Library of Congress. The latter protects you from infringement. The former helps you make sure you get paid your performance royalties.


  • Sounds like you would be the sole claimant for the copyright to the sound recording. If you’ve funded the record, or created the recording, then you’re essentially acting as a label, and you would own that particular recording of the underlying composition, regardless of the fact that other people co-own the copyright to the song itself.


  • Streaker

    I’m in Canada, how and where would I copywrite my songs please?

  • Simone

    I have a question. I’m a singer/songwriter. I would like to copyright the songs I have written and recorded for my upcoming album, but the music production does not belong to me. So I am not registering the music just my lyrics, melody, and my performance. Which form would I use? Thank you!

    • Whitney

      Hi Simone – Did you just use the PA form?

  • Cameron

    Great Article with much and valuable info.
    I have an alternative service that i use, that is super easy and cheap.
    Its called and i use it for the past 3 years with no problems.
    Just my 2 cents.

  • PianomanSJPM

    The PA form covers exactly what you are referring to.

  • PianomanSJPM

    The PA form covers exactly what you are referring to.

  • PianomanSJPM

    The PA form covers exactly what you are referring to.

  • PianomanSJPM

    The PA form covers exactly what you are referring to.

  • philip antico

    I am a recording artist I wish to copyright only my lyrics and sound recordings of my vocals
    the instrumentals behind my music are leased beats so I can not copyright them therefore only my lyrics and sound recordings of my vocals I wish to copyright which form should I use for this process “performing arts” or “sound recordings”

  • Arielle

    Thank you for taking the time to provide this information. I am trying to Ecopyright the lyrics to songs that I have recorded using other people’s beat (downloaded beats from online), however I’am still confused on how to Register the Type of Work (Sound Recording or Performing Arts)? I am the author and only creator of the lyrics to the so songs.


  • Arielle

    Thank you for taking the time to provide the information. I have wrote several songs. I download beats and write lyrics/create a song to it. I want to copyright them so I can put out my talent to producers. I’m still confused on what Type of Work (Sound Recording or Performing Arts) to register my work. Please help.

    Thanks. Arielle

  • Normally I’d suggest artists use the SR form, since it also acts to register the underlying composition. But I’m not sure in your case, since your sound recording makes use of existing copyrighted material. Perhaps you can submit the SR form and include details about how you’re NOT claiming any rights to the beats.


  • David Dwight

    If a person opens up a second email account and sends an MP3 to the second account would that be proof of ownership/creation? at a later date the email could be shown with proof of date…..

  • That’s like the digital equivalent of the “poor man’s copyright,” which doesn’t always hold up in court. So, I would steal recommend you go on the side of caution and register your copyright with the LoC.


  • Part of the SR form allows you to also submit the lyrics/melody in the same form. If you do that, then you only need to submit the SR form to be covered for both the sound recording AND the composition.


  • Check out this article for two approaches:

    As for US copyright protection in Asia, I’m pretty sure it’s part of certain treaties/trade agreements that our copyright laws (in part) apply in other regions.


  • I’m not a lawyer, so to be sure you’d need to read the copyright information for that instrument. Maybe provided in the manual? Or contact Yamaha’s support team. That being said, I’m pretty sure instrument manufacturers give customers the right to use the presets in their gear on recordings. However, one risk you might run into is that OTHER artists might’ve done the same thing already, and suddenly your tracks could be flagged on any platform that has a Content ID system (such as YouTube) because the system think your song is someone else’s, or that you’ve sampled some element of another recording. If you have the time/skill, I always recommend artists alter the presets at least minimally. That way you can avoid the above scenarios, AND you won’t have a bunch of listeners saying “Oh, I recognize that beat; it’s the DISCO setting on the PSS-30!”


  • Hey Terrence, I’d suggest registering it all under the SR form. If you register the copyright to your sound recording, you’ll also protect your beats, lyrics, melodies, etc.


  • Nope. Not a mistake. I think you just can’t register a bunch of compositions altogether under one sound recording (like an album) that way.


  • You mean you’ve already registered your copyrights for those songs? You wouldn’t have to register again to re-record them, no. BUT… once you have them in a finished sound recording, it might be worth registering that sound recording as well (which is kinda like repeating the process, but to cover a different aspect of your intellectual property).


  • Tommie Neely

    Fantastic article ! I am thankful for the
    analysis – Does someone know where my business might acquire a fillable
    Copyright SA1-2 Short Form document to type on ?

  • Hi John,

    So, in the first situation, if you’ve written the melody and lyrics, you’re the writer and own full copyright to the song. Your band would be helping arrange the song, but that’s different from ownership/writing credit. As long as they all understand the law, you can let them contribute their own ideas and parts to the song without worrying they’ll want to to be credited as co-writers. That being said, if one of them came up with a part that was so hooky that it became one of the most recognizable parts of the song, and when people imagined the song they really associated it with one of those parts (like, say, the bass line in “Another One Bites the Dust”) then there’d be a case for crediting that person as a co-writer.

    Regarding the second situation, you still own a part of those songs whether you’re in the band or not. BUT, you can’t stop them from playing or recording the tune (as long as they pay you the royalties you’re owed).


  • Well, whoever made the beat has the copyright on that, though you might be able to license the usage of that beat from them for your song.


  • Hi Sal,

    Sorry for the long delay on this response. We’ve been crazy busy over here.
    So, YES: you should still copyright your sound recording of a cover song. Or rather, you should REGISTER that copyright (since you technically already own the copyright as soon as the song is recorded).
    As for registering, it’s pretty simple to do online so I would recommend you just handle it yourself. I think it costs something like $55 bucks.

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  • I believe that if all the ownership is divvied up uniformly on every single song and on the master recordings – say, for instance, that you and your band members co-write every single song and co-own the recordings equally — you can fill out a single form (I think). But if ownership differs from song to song, or recording to recording, you probably need to fill out multiple forms. I’m not a lawyer or copyright expert though, so I could be mistaken.

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  • As long as you’re the songwriter and owner of the master recording I think you’re fine to keep doing the SR forms. That being said, I’m no music attorney, so I’m not 100% certain, but you should be covered for both copyrights with the SR form.


  • I’m not a lawyer, but my understanding is that the SR protects the submitted sound recording and the underlying composition. So your song would be copyrighted forever under that, but if you created a new recording of that song and wanted to register the copyright, you’d have to do so with a new SR form.


  • Tough one to answer. (So maybe consult with an attorney). What I’m uncertain about is whether your recording would be considered a co-written piece (music by the other person, lyrics by you), or if it’s considered a derivative work, where you made a new composition using previously existing material. Did the musician already copyright and/or distribute the music on its own? (Before you added vocals). Did they discuss whether they wanted you to copyright it as a new collaborative work, or as a derivative work?

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  • Recording is fine. You don’t need sheet music.

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  • I’m not a copyright expert, but I believe that you can just list it generally as you suggested. I also think that if you’ve already copyrighted the recordings/songs individually, you’re all set. If you only registered the songs individually (but not the sound recordings), I would recommend sending the album in as a collection in order to register the sound recordings. (SR form).

  • Luke Aaron Franks

    Public Domain Question…

    I wrote an original song, except I use an old hymn as the second verse. I know I can copyright the sound recording, but how do I copyright the music and lyrics when 85% is mine and the rest is public domain?

    • This one is tricky so I would recommend outside advice from legal counsel or a respected industry professional.

      Old hymns are sometimes not in the public domain with hymnals updated or modified, pulling odd parts out of the public domain and giving copyright protection. For instance, many old hymns were written in archaic English and some modernizations from the 1940s may be copyright protected. This needs to be thoroughly researched in advance. If any copyright protected part of the old hymn is used in your new song then it is considered a derivative work, where you “derived” your new song from the old hymn. Clearing licenses for derivative works require a lot of coordination and usually artists must hire legal counsel.

      However, if the parts of the old hymn used are 100% public domain then you can do whatever you want with it. That is what public domain means, the public owns it–you own it, and you need no further permission to use it in your new expressions and songs.

      On a side note, even if public domain you may be restricted in what you can copyright and register with PROs.

      This is about as much as I can say about registration. You technically don’t own the copyright to the PD content, only the part you added. Such as, Sherlock Holmes is public domain but certain characteristics and nemeses are protected. Or, I can make a free version of “Little Drummer Boy” (PD) but the drum line and “rump-a-pum-pum” is currently protected. Not sure how that works with PROs.

      Copyrights are established upon its creation, essentially when you record/draft/document your new song. No need to register with the Copyright Office, though there are many benefits with registration.

  • ASCAP is an American performing rights organization that collect performance royalties to songwriters and publishers when their songs are played on the radio, in venues, and more.

    You can register the copyright for your original work, and also register the other version as a separate work (though you’d need to work out with the other musician who owns what in terms of percentages, since they contributed new lyrics).

  • I suppose in theory, yes. But that’d mean you have NO way to prove you own the copyright. In actuality, you own the copyright to your music the minute its set down in a fixed format (sheet music, demo recording, etc.) — regardless of whether you register that copyright. I think that kind of blatant plagiarism is pretty rare.

  • You know, I’m not actually sure what kind of protection — if any — the US copyright office can give you if you live in India. I would check this out:

    And then maybe look through the FAQs on that site.

  • I’m no copyright expert — as I will now reveal by asking what a PMC is — but my understanding is that the SR form covers both the song and the recording, and that SR registration should be enough to fully protect you. Your BMI song registration is maybe icing on the cake, but I actually don’t think that one matters (since it’s related to royalty collection, and not copyright registration) when it comes to proving you own the song.

  • C. Banks,

    great advice

  • You can absolutely publish music before you’ve received confirmation that the copyright has been fully registered. Technically, you own the copyright to your music the moment its recorded, written on paper, etc. The registration of the copyright is a slightly separate issue, but plenty (most) artists put music out there into the world before the copyright registration process is complete.

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  • Are you in the USA? If so, I’d recommend you register your copyright with

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  • I don’t know, actually. Maybe that’s one bit of evidence you could present in an infringement case? But you’re not guaranteed minimum protections unless you’ve registered the copyright with the LOC, so I recommend that most of all.

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  • If you’re in the US, you should register your copyright at

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  • If your claim is only to the sound recording and you are the full owner of the track, then the co-writer would not own the recording, but they would own a copyright share in the underlying composition. I would recommend you consult with an attorney or expert on this matter.

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  • You can copyright a musical theater play (both the script and songs) here:

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  • I’m no expert on international copyright, but I would assume you should first register your copyright in your own country.

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  • SDiane Hathaway

    i want to copy write a song that I have created. I don’t know where to begin. I have read stuff on, but it can be confusing. Where do I begin? Thanks Diane