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Song Copyright Basics

A Copyright is a right of ownership of a piece of intellectual property. A Copyright is “created” the minute you “fix” your idea in a tangible form i.e. a written song composition, book, design, film, or sound recording. However you have earned this “copyright”, it is not enough if someday you desire to license, sell, or otherwise exploit your work commercially. Nor is it enough if someday you may have to enforce your ownership rights. Even, the mailing of your work in a sealed envelop only to be opened in the event you need to prove ownership of the work will not get you these rights. Moreover, by this time you will have expended thousands of dollars in legal fees to try to establish your rights over one who has registered your work for thirty dollars.

The Registration of your work with the U.S. Copyright Office gets you the rights you need to exploit and enforce your copyright. Registration gets you a legal presumption of ownership that would be difficult for anyone to overcome in court.

If you were to produce a complete CD package of twelve songs you would have at least four potential copyrights. First, you need to register your song compositions using Form PA (“performing arts”). (All twelve songs can be registered on a single registration form as a collection provided that they all have the same author.) This gets you the right to license the songs for exploitation by others, such as for recording, manufacturing, and distribution. Second, you need to register your master sound recordings using Form SR (“sound recording”). This gets you the right to license the reproduction of CDs and tapes from your masters. You also get the right to license samples from the masters to others to include in their recordings. Third, there is the album artwork which is registered via Form VA (“visual arts”). And, finally, the liner notes on the album may be registered as well using Form TX (“text”).