A copyright guarantees that a songwriter gets paid for uses of a song. However, you only need permission to use a copyrighted song the first time it gets recorded and distributed. After that, you can use a copyrighted song without asking permission, as long as you pay for it.The U.S. Copyright Act does not require you to give credit to copyrighted songs. However, many people give credit to the copyright holder as a courtesy. If the copyright holder is not the author, you have the option of giving the author credit.

Look up all author and copyright information. You can get this information from the websites for Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI), the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), or the Society of European Stage Authors & Composers (SESAC). These performing rights organizations have interactive websites that allow you to search for songs in their catalogs so you can see the proper title (you can search by using lines from the song), the copyright holder (such as a publisher), the author and the date the song was written or published. You can also search online through the Library of Congress.

Write the title of the song. Make sure you use the official title, not the line that seems like it should be the title. Many songs have unusual names, and some song titles are never mentioned in the lyrics of the song.

Type the word “Copyright” or place a copyright symbol (the letter “c” with a circle around it) after the title. This notice lets all readers know that the song has legal protection. The notice also lets listeners know that you honor the copyright because you openly display it.

Write the year the song was copyrighted. This might be the year it was written or the year it was published. You do not have to know the difference. Just include the year that is listed with one of the performing rights organizations or the Library of Congress.

List the name of the copyright holder. This usually is not the author. A publisher typically owns the copyright on a song that has been recorded. Occasionally a record company may hold the copyright. Many songs have multiple copyright holders, so list all of them. You may list them in any order, with commas between the names of the copyright holders.

Write the name of the author or authors. This information is not part of the legal copyright notice, but you can include it if you want to honor the writers. You may precede the authors’ names with the phrases “written by” or “words and music by.”