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Copyrights

A Practical View On          
Copyrights

Songwriters often worry that other people will steal their songs. They worry about sending their songs to publishers or entering songwriting contests.

While it's smart to be alert to copyright issues, it's also important to maintain perspective. Outright attempts to steal songs in today's music business are actually quite rare. And thanks to modern copyright law, songwriters have safeguards to help protect their rightful ownership of songs they create.

According to U.S. copyright law, songwriters own their songs the moment their songs are completed. It's easy. Just affix a copyright notice - i.e. © John Doe 2012 - and you're in business. (Even if the copyright notice is not consistently stated on recordings or lyric sheets, the writer still receives copyright protection.)

Most experienced songwriters realize there are likely to be revisions or rewrites on any given song, therefor filing a formal copyright registration with the U.S. Office of Copyrights is often postponed until the song is ready for public dissemination, say, a recording or CD release.

It's up to each individual songwriter to decide at what point in the creative process they want to file a formal copyright with the Library of Congress. And when you do, be aware that you can copyright multiple songs for the price of one. To save money, instead of registering your songs separately, register your songs as a "collection" of songs.

Whether you decide to register your copyrights now or later, there's little reason to worry about playing your songs in front of audiences, working creatively with musicians and songwriters, or entering song contests and songwriting events. There are legal safeguards in place to keep your songs from being stolen.

The bottom line is this: It's against the law to steal anyone's songs. Should someone try, you have solid legal recourse - whether or not your song is formally copyrighted through the US Office of Copyrights.

Steve Cahill
SRN Song Professor

(There are many good books available on the subject of copyrights. Information is also available through Songwriters Resource Network and the official Library of Congress link below.)

Copyright forms are available at the U.S. Library of Congress.

The Great American Song Contest is sponsored by Songwriters Resource Network, a trusted resource for songwriters everywhere.

 

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