Copyrighting your music is one of the most misunderstood processes among unsigned artists and musicians in general. There are a lot of urban legends, myths and things that I hear ALL THE TIME that aren't based in fact. First off anything you create and put in a "tangible" format is protected by US copyright laws... BUT, here is where it gets complicated: Actually REGISTERING you copyrights gives you another layer of protection and enforcement legally.
*Any recording artists who creates music which could be duplicated for the purpose of publication, performance, or display (Specifically if there are profits or revenue involved) should understand copyrights. Although your music is protected by United States copyright laws automatically, proving the date of creation is another story in the case of an infringement incident. We will get more into proving a date of creation later. Let's discuss what a copyright actually is.
-THIS IS DIRECTLY FROM THE U.S COPYRIGHT OFFICE'S SITE-
What is copyright?
Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works.
Do I have to register with your office to be protected?
No. In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Copyright Registration.”
Why should I register my work if copyright protection is automatic?
Registration is recommended for a number of reasons. Many choose to register their works because they wish to have the facts of their copyright on the public record and have a certificate of registration. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney's fees in successful litigation. Finally, if registration occurs within 5 years of publication, it is considered prima facie evidence in a court of law. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Copyright Registration” and Circular 38b, Highlights of Copyright Amendments Contained in the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA), on non-U.S. works.
I’ve heard about a “poor man’s copyright.” What is it?
The practice of sending a copy of your own work to yourself is sometimes called a “poor man’s copyright.” There is no provision in the copyright law regarding any such type of protection, and it is not a substitute for registration.
So basically when you need to file a lawsuit for copyright infringement, registration is just part of the process even after the fact. My stance is why wait? Have a date attached to your work as soon as possible. Did you know that any person can research your copyright registrations if they know your name or pseudonym?
Did you know that a copy of your music goes on record in the library of congress when you register a copyright? It's filed by date and you are sent a certification by the US Copyright Office and is a POWERFUL weapon that could possibly change a beat-jacker (or song stealer's) legal team's stance as far as resolving your compliant (trust me on this #experience)
Proving the date of creation is vital.
POOR MAN'S COPYRIGHT:
Mailing your CD to yourself in a sealed package certified mail and keeping it (and never opening it) is called the "poor man's copyright". While this in theory attaches a date to your work there is no legal precedence for this counting as registration. Also you still have the factor of discovery, extensive litigation, & etc in a court: not fun. It's not effective for attaching a date to your works.
My recommendation: Don't waste your time with "poor man's copyright", it doesn't do you any good to the best of my knowledge.
There are services online that can time-stamp your beats and songs and give you a "witness", documentation, certification, etc to prove the date of creation in a sticky situation. You will still need to file with the US Copyright office before damages, litigation etc, but for the purpose of initially dating your creations, and having solid proof of your work, I highly recommend using Beat Brokerz Copyright services. It comes with a premium membership. It's included with membership so it is extremely affordable if you have multiple songs to register. It's effective and accessible to anyone.
Here's some info from the BeatBrokerz.com and a link:
"Beat Brokerz has a marketplace available to the public for buying and selling music instrumentals.
An added benefit of using Beat Brokerz is the copyright protection services available for free, to everyone. Upload your tracks, submit and get a time stamped encryption file with the necessary paperwork to copyright your music legally. Get the process of initiation started and take your music to the next level. Don't sacrifice the safety of your music when you put it online. Safeguard your rights and protect your music now."
Thanx for reading #stealthmode
*Disclaimer: I am not an attorney and this site or myself are not in the practice of giving legal advice or serving as legal counsel in any capacity, the author of this post is not legally liable for any advice given and is purely opinion based on interpretation of copyright laws, literature, experience and legal publications as deciphered by the author.
About Joey Cutless
Joey Cutless is a Music Producer, Composer & Engineer that has been a pioneer in online beat sales, TV licensing, and marketing of all things production related for over 15 years.