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Songwriters and composers invest enormous amounts of time and creative energy into developing new musical works. Copyright provides legal protection to ensure that others can not exploit that creative effort by using music and lyrics without the permission of the songwriter or composer. The U.S. Copyright Office has made it relatively simple to register the copyright of music and lyrics in one filing.
Access the U.S. Copyright Office's online registration service at copyright.gov by clicking on the icon for Electronic Copyright Office.
Check the list of acceptable audio file formats if your work is unpublished and you will be submitting a digital audio file. Ensure that your song has been saved in one of the acceptable formats.
Complete the information requested on the form including the full legal name of the person or entity registering the copyright, the name and description of the work, and contact information.
Upload the digital audio file where requested, or indicate that a hard-copy will be mailed.
Make the online payment of $35 with a debit or credit card and submit the application.
Promptly mail the hard copy cassette or compact disc if you were registering a published work.
Check to ensure that you receive an email advising that your copyright registration has been received. The copyright registration is effective as soon as the file is received by the U.S. Copyright Office unless you are notified that it has been rejected.
Copyright for music and lyrics can only be registered together in one filing if the copyright holder is the same for both the words and the notes of the song. If the composer and lyricist are two different people, separate copyright filings will be necessary for each element.
- U.S. Copyright Office: Copyright Registration of Musical Compositions and Sound Recordings
- Copyright.gov. "Definitions: What is Copyright Infringement?" Accessed June 11, 2020.
- The U.S. Copyright Office. "Annual Report for Fiscal 2018," Page 12. Accessed June 11, 2020.
- Copyright.gov. "In the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, A&M RECORDS, INC., et al. v. NAPSTER, INC." Accessed June 11, 2020.
A freelance writer since 1978 and attorney since 1981, Cindy Hill has won awards for articles on organic agriculture and wild foods, and has published widely in the areas of law, public policy, local foods and gardening. She holds a B.A. in political science from State University of New York and a Master of Environmental Law and a J.D. from Vermont Law School.