How Do I Copyright My Original Songs?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by masaru, Jul 25, 2003.

  1. masaru


    Aug 8, 2001
    Okinawa, Japan
    After 30+ years of playing covers, I finally have a few tunes of my own ready for public consumption. I've heard varying opinions on copyrighting the material from "don't play it live until it's copyrighted" to "copyrighting isn't necessary." Living in Japan, it's doubly hard to get the straight dope since, apparently, most music here never goes the copyright route. Who's right, is it necessary and, if so, how do I do it?
  2. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    Under U.S. law, your composition is copyrighted the moment it is fixed in tangible form, ie. written down or recorded. However, you must register the copyright with the Library of Congress if you want to sue, and you should register if you want to license. In short, any sort of monetary value or commercial prospect you may want to realize from the composition will depend on registration. See here for details.

    That's the U.S. Keep in mind intellectual property rights are territorial, so registering in the U.S. protects you there but not elsewhere.
  3. TyKao


    Jun 29, 2003
    Well, if you only register in the US, you may still have copyrights in other countries, but it differs from city to city. There are international agreements concerning copyright protections for creative works, but they're rather threadbare.

    On a side note, most copyright laws in other countries are based on an artistic moral rights perspective, so you might actually get greater protection abroad than in the US. Go figure.

    There's such a thing as poor man's copyright. It's not quite as good as hiring a lawyer and registering the copyright with the government, but it'll do for most musicians who don't have the budget.

    Here's a decent guide. I'd try to give you all the legalese nitty gritty, but you'd get bored, my boss would get mad, and my work would lie unfinished.