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How To Copyright Your Music To Protect Your Future Royalties
Many musicians confuse copyrighting music with registering music; these are two different things. According to the law in the United States, once you have written or recorded your music in a permanent form, it is automatically copyrighted.
Of course, it might help to first understand what it means to copyright music. A copyright is a certain legal protection that is offered to those who compose creative works, whether those works are art, music, or the written word. The U. S. Constitution states there are limits one can place on the amount of time the work is exclusively protected.
If you copyright music, this means you (and you alone) have the right to use your work or allow others to use your work. You also have the right to distribute copies of your work. Whether those copies are in the form of written or sheet music or recorded music to the public as well as the right to perform your music for the public.
There is something called Fair Use (more commonly known as the Fair Use Doctrine) that allows anyone to use your written or recorded music for the purpose of research, news reporting, commentary, or criticism. In other words, there are times when the use of copyrighted material is deemed appropriate without the consent of the one holding the copyright.
In some cases, copyrighting music alone is not enough to protect your music, at least not without going through a lot of hoops to do so. One of the things you can do to protect your copyright is provide notice of copyright. This involves writing a simple statement such as using the word "copyright," the date, and your name at the bottom of your sheet music or on the case for the recording or the actual recording itself. CDs are the most common means for recording devices today and a notice of copyright can easily be added to the exterior of your CD or on your label if you have one printed.
Why copyright music? The answer is simple: so others cannot take credit for your hard work and creative genius. For extra protection you may want to register your copyright as well. Registering your copyright will provide you with formal legal documentation of your ownership of your music should anyone attempt to claim rights to your music or dispute the true ownership/authorship of your music.
You must have your copyright registered if you wish to file a copyright infringement suit; it is, in my opinion, better to not only copyright music during the creation process, but also to register your copyright before it could possibly become an issue. Registering a copyright is not a difficult a process. Basically it involves filling out an application, paying a filing fee (check with the U. S. Copyright Office for the current amount), and a copy of the work you want to protect.
Your music doesn't have to be published to obtain a copyright. Music should be copyrighted and registered long before the publication process to protect your rights as the creator of the music. Whether you are dabbling with cute little limericks or writing masterpieces and concertos, you want to make sure to copyright music earlier rather than later for the best possible outcome should any problems arise.
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