How To Copyright Music In 5 Easy Steps

How to copyright music

Every musician must protect his/her intellectual property. Register your original music with the U.S Copyright Office to protect yourself against copyright infringement.

Copyright protects you in an event when someone steals your music and claims it as their own. Copyright protection enables you to claim damages if you find someone using your music without permission. 

Below is a step-by-step guide to help you copyright music:

1. Complete the online registration form

The U.S Copyright Office requires you to register your music through an online registration process called the eCO Online System. You will have to sign up and create an account to begin with the registration process to copyright music. Copyrighting your music may seem intimidating, especially due to the technical jargon involved in the registration process. The eCo Online system, however, offers step-by-step instructions to make the process easier.

The eCO system also provides a copyright tutorial which you can find here. Read the complete tutorial before you begin with the registration process to copyright music.

2. Choose the right copyright form

There are two copyright forms, namely Form SR (Sound Recording) and Form PA (Performing Arts), to copyright music. Copyright Office’s website mentions when musicians must use Form SA or Form PA.

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Use Form SR for registration of published or unpublished sound recordings, that is, for registration of the particular sounds or recorded performance.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

Form PA (Performance 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.

However, it is recommended that you register your music as ‘Sound Recording’. This is because Form SR offers copyright protection for both, your performance and the underlying music itself.

Review your application before you move on to the next step. Check if you have properly entered the titles, publication status, author info, claimant info, rights and permissions, correspondence contact and mailing address.

3. Make your payment

You will be directed to a separate website to make your payment. The U.S Copyright Office charges $55 for every song registration. You can make the payment through credit card or ACH.

4. Submit your music material

Once you’ve made the payment, you will receive instructions to submit your music via mail or electronically. The website clearly lists the accepted formats to send your music in electronically. Follow the instructions and upload your music. 

5. Receive confirmation 

The website will provide an immediate confirmation once you have completed the entire registration process. The Library of Congress will take six months to process your registration. However, you receive copyright protection immediately after submitting your work.

Follow the above easy steps to copyright music today!

Note: This post should not be considered as legal advice. If you need legal advice related to copyright issues, kindly contact a lawyer before proceeding. 

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Manasa Boggaram is a writer and has a strong passion for music, positive news and constructive journalism. When she is not researching story ideas or writing blog posts, she spends her time reading books, discovering new music and eating lots of street food.

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