Copyright Your Music!

Whether you are musically gifted or just a beginner it's necessary you copyright your music.

Ultimate Guitar

I know this isn't a fun issue to discuss and it's not something you're going to enjoy, but it's a serious thing you need to be prepared for!

Whether you are musically gifted or just a beginner it's necessary you copyright your music. Even if your music isn't top of the line quality, and you ponder it's not worth the effort I'm sorry to tell you, you're completely wrong. It's not hard to copyright something, it's simple and without a copyright your music could be stolen and used for multiple purposes without your credit. This column will guide you through copyright laws and help you make sure your music stays yours!

Before I continue, it's granted you know what a copyright is. Basically, a copyright is the legal right granted to an author, composer, playwright, publisher, or distributor to exclusive publication, production, sale, or distribution of a literary, musical, dramatic, or artistic work. Copyright protects creative and artistic works by the "author that can be shown or heard. This means if I am a painter, I need a painting to prove I did it. A musician such as yourself must write lyrics down on paper or record your music to tape, CD, or any other device that can record and reproduce audio.

In your given case, your copyright is based fundamentally on the musical part of a copyright. The form of your copyright must be recorded or written down. An idea for a song is not protected. If a band has an original song and plays it live without writing the music down on paper or recording it, is not protected by law, since they cannot prove with hard evidence they are the authors. Ideas and concepts are not protected by Copyright law. Always write your ideas down on paper or record them by any means to protect yourself.

True Fact! I'm commonly told by people they don't copyright their work because it requires a registration. In order to copyright something, you don't need a copyright registration! I recommend one definitely, though you don't need one. Simply format your copyright in a fashionable order such as title; copyright; latest year copyrighted. An example:

Copyright Your Music! 2005

My column has now been copyrighted. You cannot distribute my column without my given permission. It's legally mine. I copyrighted it and own it. Don't be fooled by the business world, they will follow through in a law suit based upon lack of a copyright. Just because you created it doesn't make it yours. It's a sad thought, but it's easy to make it right!

You can get a registration for a copyright and it's overall more efficient but don't get me wrong here, once you've written down your music or recorded your material you are officially protected. Filling for copy write registration takes this one step further. Filling your material with copyright registration entitles the availability to statutory damages and any fees that occur from the lawyers of this world that are waiting to add that new addition to their home. Without registration of an official nature, the cost to sue another party for infringing on your material would probably cost more than awarded damages. Proving you're the author of origin is one thing, paying to do it is another. This doesn't mean you have to register, but if your material will be available to the public in mass, than it's a good idea to at least think about filing with a copyright firm.

The important fact as stated before is that your rights occur when you provided means of your material. Rights do not occur simply by filing for registration. If copyright registration appeals to you please visit and register, it's simple and you could be preventing some serious issues.

I don't want to provoke ideas but to be honest the business world or even you; a fellow guitarist could steal from other musician if their music isn't copyrighted. Riffs, solo, lyrics, choreography, artwork you name it, chances are it's possible to steal and distribute. One thing you must recognize and remember as an artist is that in order to copyright your specific music whether you are a guitarist or bassist is to record your part of your bands song separately, if you're a guitarist or bassist without a band or recording alone, it's perfectly fine. The lyrics of the song can be, if written down on paper, and can be considered as a poem. A song writer can copyright their music and lyrics, and the sound recording of the music performed by someone else can be copy written apart from the written music and lyrics.

Before I conclude this column I must add this. It's quite possible many of you may be getting ripped off and stolen from as we speak and guess what? You know absolutely nothing about it! It's completely true the things people will do. Right now at this exact time, it's quite possible someone could be sending your music out to their buddies' claming it's theirs or stealing your lyrics for their project. It's sad but true it honestly does happen. If you've posted your music or uploaded it anywhere it could be in use of someone else. Be aware of yourself and your surroundings!

Please take note I am not a lawyer, nor do I have professional law experience however I guarantee all the information mentioned above is completely true based on my research and recent findings. I'm merely a simple musician and I've been down through the copyright path many times and it's only fair you become aware of what's going on as well. I encourage you all to copyright your music or any work you do in the future, it's not for me. It's helping you!

Good luck,


103 comments sorted by best / new / date

    just a random g
    ^..NO^.. music is automatically copyrighted as soon as it is created. This is complete drivel man. 1 Star
    you're right Lord; this guy doesn't know what he's talking about. If the above were true, think about the chaos there would be cause anybody could copyright anything. There's a legal process w/ Congress and it's actually fairly simple, or you can unofficially copyright something by writing it down, mailing it to yourself, and *NEVER* opening it. That way, you take someone to court and the envelope is postmarked. However, i don't know if they still allow that. Another way is to just post it on the internet. The moment something is posted on the internet, it's automatically copyrighted. So it's true that this article is copyrighted, but not just because of what he wrote. This guy doesn't have a clue what he's talking about.
    great artcile really useful, but if i write copywrite 2005 on a song, someone finds it, copies it, then rights copywrite 2004, am i just screwed or can they do like carbon dating on the ink to see who wrote it first?
    I didn't know you could copyright things just with that symbol. I thought you had to go through some weird legal process.
    I guess that's what the world's come to. Everyone is so worried of people stealing their songs before they even get them. Now I guess you have to, but I haven't heard a good song sense the early 90's (and that's pushing it) from a group that hasn't started in the 80's. Things like McCartney losing the rights, and Mustaine getting ***ed (for lack of a better word), shows this generation that we need something, but jesus. Most people do it to worry about the money now. I know this may seem odd to some people, but, if you worried less about money, and more about music, you might be able to put out some decent shit and would be steps over all these new bands who just SUCK, and more like the classics. You know they are called the classics for a reason... And do you think they worried about copyrighting their shit? One more thing. When you copyright it, it just makes it that much harder to revise/recompose your work. So my "advice" (and what I do) is just "copyright" it (or give credits) when you make demos.
    Mick Mackler
    good article. read the book All You Need to Know About the Music Business by Donald S. Passman. He's an industry lawyer and he has a whole section on copyrights. He also comments on the importance of it throughout the book whenever applicable. And for those of you asking, yes, the mailing yourself your music thing is legit. Don't ever open it though!
    let me add something to this. Another easy way of copywriting your material is sending it to yourself in the mail with a piece of paper saying you wrote it, or e-mailing it to yourself. That way if someone takes credit for your material, you can proove to the court that you wrote it at that date before they ever released it.
    i just hope u guys know if u come up with a wicked chord progression one day... you can't copyright a chord progression! i was surprised to find that out myself
    You have sole ownership rights for a particular piece of music as soon as you create it, but you must be able to prove in court that you created the music, and that you created it before it was ever used by anyone else. If you do not put down a copyright statement, or make some sort of claim to your music when you create it, it can be considered "open-source", or in other words, anyone can use it without repercussion until you make some sort of claim to sole ownership rights. In order to extract money from someone you have to in some way present proof that you made a claim that the music was solely yours, and no one else could use it prior to someone else using your music. Also, you must prove that this someone else gained value from your music equivalent to the amount you are suing them for, or that you lost value equivalent to the amount you are suing them for. Also, the reason major companies spend a great deal of time and money on the copyrights for their multi-million projects is the same reason IBM spends a great deal of time and money on making sure their computers meet all usability standards, and a person who builds a computer in their garage will be happy if the computer will just boot up half the time. It's apples and oranges. Multi-million dollar corporations make sure to deal with all of the loopholes that the millions of people using their product might think up. Most bands are happy with having a fanbase of a few thousand, and don't have to worry about the billions and billions of people who have never even heard of them.
    Cameo: Don't flatter yourself-- your music sucks and no one wants it. If you're popular enough to need it, your record company will take care of it.
    Your music might suck but the idea behind it might be original. your music might be good, but no-one knows it, in both this cases someone can steal it..
    one thing i hate is when i make a song then 2 years down the road, i hear the excact song on like an add or something.
    Everyone, Copyright there stuff. about 4 months before American Idiot was in the making I wrote a piece that sounded exactly like Holiday... But I forgot to Copyright it.. If I have just copywrote it.. I probably be rich!
    Hi, if I want to copyright the songs on my album, do I copyright the songs individually, or can I sumbit one form for the album? thanks!
    quesiton. my band is making a dvd that includes us doing some stupid stuff and some live performances. do i have to get written permission from the bystanders in the video or could we put something at the beginning saying some along the lines of "the views expressed in this video are not necessarily the views of the other people in the video" PM me if you have any answers. thanks, matt h.
    Not steal the material, but like make up the same lyrics? Sorry for double post.
    Nice, this'll help me, whne i start writing my stuff on paper. But what if you copy right something, and some "star" or something, steals it and you can't really do anything about it.
    may be about to join a band with an old school mate soon, so ill take this information into account. great article
    I really bet that your the person that wrote holiday Ozzman, good artile on copyrighting, ill be sure to do it to all our bands music. Oh yea, Green Day sucks any ways.
    Mailing work to yourself does not provide protection anymore. Instead, you can a notary public sign and date your work, or register the work with the copyright office.
    i don't know if i was interested cuz it was interesting or interested cuz i'm bored. either way, good article. very informative; it served its purpose.
    I think some of you are just too much of lazy fat asses to actually listen to the man's advice. He's totally right. Very usefull and informative article, however it was kind of like reading a text book. Spice it up a bit. 4 stars.
    ..ultradogfromhel: ..i like living on the edge, ill take my chances. you'd be surprised how much this happens, all you have to do is write a couple words down: ebashnitzil3/06/2005 and you wont be ripped - and they can copyright it before you do and you have no rights to it
    Mr. Clean
    I just stole your column, its being distributed throughout the net as we speak not really, but a good if obvious article