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© Copyrighting Music

by JazzMaverick

11 Jan 2009
Views: 11919

First off you should know that there are two types of copyright when we are talking about music:

- © (C in a Circle) applies to any of your compositions, your notation, your lyrics, on top of artwork or cover designs, all of these in their own rights have their individual copyright, and you must copyright them separately to ensure that they remain yours.

- The second type of copyright applies to the sound recording itself, and is signified by the ‘P in a circle’.

What's most important to understand is that you can't just slap the copyright symbol on your stuff and then say it's yours, you need LEGAL proof.

So if you ever wanted to copy a classical piece like Beethoven's 9th Symphony, you would legally be able to because he's been dead for over 70 years. The work itself would now be out of copyright, and available as a work in the public domain. But, you have to perform this and record this yourself so you are not stealing the entire sound file

Incase someone copies your sound file and claims it as their own you need to copyright the sound recording itself. This is separate from the underlying work. The actual copyright of the sound recording will last for 50 years from the day you first copyright it, or 50 years from the released date.

Just so you know now, you cannot copyright band names or artist names, you can however, use trademark. But it must not be similar to previous band names.

The proper way is to go to companies and have them copyright your stuff, so you have the papers, and so do they. A&R are the top company for copyrighting music and also publishing you or your band.

But most of you won't want to spend the money on copyrighting these songs, so I'll fill you in on an almost free way to copyright your music.

PLEASE NOTE: The rules have changed in the court of law and what I am about to write DOES NOT APPLY in America - this is still legal and can pass in a court of law here in England.

First off, you need to copy all of your songs onto a CD, write a statement (along with the date!! - SO important) saying that these are your compositions and you have composed them purely of your own accord. State the dates of when each song was composed, and sign the statement. Followed by the complete Musical Score (Notation). Then put them into an envelope (including the CD!!) and send it to yourself! Make sure the stamps have the date on them, so go to your post office and ask them to stamp it with the date.

Once you have received the envelope again, DO NOT OPEN IT . Keep it in a safe or somewhere to ensure that it is not damaged in anyway.

This is a legal way to copyright your music and you can legally use this should you take someone to court for stealing your music. On that day the Judge can then open it and see the actual date so it all works out.

You MUST make sure that you actually own the songs. That your MELODIES are not similar to any compositions you've heard before. Otherwise it will be YOU seeing time in prison and being fined.

Taking Official Company Methods...

You must (if you want get paid) PUBLISH your tunes Via Publishing Company like BMI or ASCAP ... the cost is relative to the payback.

These Publishing firms along with many others will put a strong legal lock on your tunes and if you make money off your tunes the fee's are well worth it as every single time your song is played on the radio, TV, and other means, you will be paid (not a LOT at first but it definitely adds up).

To make your profit more successful, you may sign up as an 'artist' and/or 'publisher' (I suggest both). This keeps your stuff "alive" money-wise, and protects all of your latest stuff PRIOR to releasing it in any form ...and that is the KEY: Publish THEN put it on the web etc.

ASCAP & BMI both accept proof other than pressed CDs or Vinyl (a burned copy works fine) and are quite easy to work with as THEY want a 'cut' of your music in exchange for protecting it and TRACKING it. IE: When you eventually receive a check from either it comes with a summery-report of where - when - how, this money was generated, which helps greatly with touring and so on.

I like both BMI and ASCAP , but BMI seems more 'on the spot' to me and you cannot be with BOTH firms at once. You CAN have older BMI material with BMI and currently be on ASCAP but not both 'new" and at the same time.

IF you tour release any recorded material for "commercial use" PLEASE PUBLISH IT it will save your music life, and hopefully make you some ker-ching as well.

If you post your music virally and do not copyright them, you stand a strong risk of them being bootlegged and taken from you without you actually being able to do anything. If you do copyright them then you can take them to court for it.

The sending to yourself will give you security while NOT generating any INCOME. A publishing firm WILL both legally protect your tunes and if all goes well.....generate income.

Hope that helped!


Also, check out my music listed on Sound Cloud (link below) if you like it follow me on facebook! :)

JazzMaverick on Sound Cloud
JazzMaverick Music




one of my songs, the verse rythm is the same as another song but the notes arnt anywherre cose to the same and it switches can i copyright the song?


This was extremely helpful, thank you


I'd have to hear both yours and the other song's section in order to say if it's allowed or not.

It's kind of like the discussion or Steve Vai and Oasis' battle between copyright. Though that one is just ridiculous.


kk ill send u them, i made the song before i ever heard the other one, but then i heard the other, ill send you them.


this is a great lesson


So, lets say we do send the music to ourselves the way you said

Would we be able to put the (C) next to the titles?


Wow, so even now at my age I'd be allowed to persue a lawsuit against someone stealing my music if I posted and saved a CD and statement to myself? That's amazing! Thanks Jazz, I'll do that. But I can't record my music, any way around that?


Yeah, you'll then be allowed to put the © next to your tracks.

Unfortunately there's no other way around it, you'll need to record them in order to legally say these are your songs.


I've heard of this before but I was told that this would not hold up in court.

I think that if you wanted to try it make sure you got several un-opened copies. for exampe make 4 packages with only one song on it. You need to also have a good filing system.

And as soon as your making some real money get them properly copy written with the copyright office of your local government.


Is there any way around the musical notation because I cant read music.


Its a really good talent to have, so try to learn

Course, I dont want to be a hypocrite because I can only barely read it

Course, it requires alot of time (which I dont have)


Interesting lesson :) Thanks. Though I have no desire of copyright my stuff lol, similar chord progressions been used by thousands of bands for ages...

So, im not sure what is the *exact* term of plagiation. I think there must be same chord progression AND same melody, but im not sure how long measure it counts...well nice lesson anyway.


Niece bit o information Jazz, it's also a good idea is to use registered post.

If you don’t know music notation you can use Guitar pro to change tablature to music automatically for you.

Hea Empirism, I don’t know how true this is but i heard somewhere that 7 consecutive notes makes one piece of music legally the same as another...

The guy said that if you take a new song and change a small part of it every 6 notes you can re release it. That sucks hea... but like I said i don't know how true this is.


You don't need to read music yourself, just have someone else do it for you, but it needs to be written down so you've copyrighted the Melodies and the chord progressions.

It can be either Melody or Progression or it could be both. It doesn't have to be both together. Otherwise so many melodies would be taken, and vise versa.

From my memory I'm pretty sure it's 5 notes which are the same, and you can change at least one note within and it'll be classed as different, but this is also down to opinion on the judge.

It works in America and Canada, too. Other countries could vary, but I'm pretty sure it's a world wide thing.

But like Telecrater said, once you've actually become popular, definitely copyright your music with a company.


Ja Jazz might be hea but i wont bargain on either... :-) best to do like you said or just pay to keep your music safe.


Oh, 5 notes?... lol thats imho ridiculous... I can take there 5000 songs that have 5 notes or chrods consecutive and still they copyright those themselves... misty thing... :D.

One interesting thing is that who are responsible if you copyright your music in a company and still someone claim that its plagiation of some song?... you or recording company or company that copyright your song.


This is an excellent topic. Look, you record a song and copyright it and sell a million copies, and then someone sues you for copyright infringement. Now they have to prove it, and if they do, fine, you screwed up. So you have to give them all or some portion of the profits you've made from that song. It's happened before, but I never heard of anyone going to prison over it. The main idea is to protect yourself from someone using YOUR song and selling a million copies. If they do, you are entitled to compensation, but you can't prove it unless you play by the rules listed above. Thank you for bringing up this lesson/topic for discussion.


vvvvvvvery interesting


If you decide to use a Copyright Office you can save by sending several songs as a batch under one name. My wife and I did this about ten years ago with about 9 songs but did not list separately. Instead we listed as SESSION 1. The cost is $50 per application (this is in US) and $35 if done on web. If you plan to send more than one batch, you need to know what songs were on each batch since they will be registered as one song. This is the url for the home page



So does this mean i can put a bethoven or bach piece in my recordings?


this is great ima copy right some songs! :D


does the score have to include percussion, I can read and write sheet music for regular instruments but not percussion

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