The processes of songwriting and beat production are detailed, time-consuming, and quite strenuous.
Sometimes, they involve bringing together several people and working long hours for days or even months.
Therefore, the last thing you would want is someone else taking the credit for all your hard work.
So, how can you protect your song? Can you patent it?
No, you can’t patent a song.
Keep reading to learn why you can’t patent it and how to protect your song.
How Can You Patent Your Song?
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is the body in charge of granting patents to new inventions, designs, processes, and machines.
It protects this Intellectual Property from unauthorized reproduction, use, sale, and dissemination.
However, USPTO’s jurisdiction does not extend to songs and any other inventions of that nature.
Therefore, you cannot patent a song. Instead, you can register it with the U.S Copyright Office.
Note that all songs are automatically protected by the U.S Copyright Law, including those that aren’t registered.
Why Register Your Song With the U.S Copyright Office
As we’ve said, copyright automatically exists as soon as you put your song in a tangible medium like an audio recording or a film.
So, is it still necessary to register your song with the U.S Copyright Office?
The simple answer is yes.
Although registration is optional, it comes with several benefits.
Here are five reasons why you should register your song as copyright as soon as possible:
- It gives you the right to file an infringement lawsuit: Except for a few narrow exceptions, the U.S Copyright Laws demand that to make an infringement claim, you must have registered the said song as copyright. According to section 411 (a), “no action for infringement of the copyright in any United States work shall be instituted until preregistration registration of the copyright claim has been made.” Although you can still register the song after an infringement and proceed to file a lawsuit, this process is often long and tedious. The best option is to register the song as soon as it’s released.
- Registering your song within five years of its publication grants you an automatic presumption of validity: When you file an infringement claim, the first thing the court does is to ascertain if the song is yours. If you just registered it before filing a claim, this process can be overdrawn and may deter any applications for injunctive relief. However, if you had already registered the song five years within its publication, the law automatically assumes you’re its rightful owner.
- Timely registration can help you save on litigation costs and recover statutory damages: The U.S Copyright Laws only bind the defendant to pay for the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees if the infringement occurred post-registration. You are also entitled to statutory damages and additional profits only if the violation happened after the effective registration date.
- Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is a requirement when petitioning the International Trade Commission (ITC) to enforce exclusionary relief: Under Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930, creatives and inventors can petition the International Trade Commission to bar those infringing works imported into the U.S from accessing the country. However, to obtain such an exclusionary relief, you must have registered your song as a copyright with the U.S Copyright Office.
- Registering your song puts it in the public copyright record: An instantaneous advantage of registering your music is that it makes the world aware of your copyright claim. The Copyright Public Records Catalog highlights all the relevant information, such as when you created the song and whether you’ve published it or not. You can also add your name and contact information or the company handling the song’s rights and permission requests. This makes it easy for people to get in touch with you if they want to buy permission to use your music elsewhere.
How to Register Your Song With The U.S Copyright Office To Protect It
Now that we understand why it’s essential to register your song, let’s look at the registration process:
To register a song as copyright, it must be fixed to a tangible medium—you must first record or write it down.
Here’s a list of other things you need before beginning the registration process:
- Information about the song: Who is the author, artist, or performer? What’s the name of the album? Here, you record any information that can aid in identifying the song.
- Split sheet: This document states the songwriters and producers, their contributions to the song, and how much of the music they own. If you’re registering an album, you need different split sheets for all the songs.
- Lyrics: These are the actual words of the song.
- MP3s: These are audio recordings of the song.
2. Go to The U.S. Copyright Website
Once you have all the above credentials, go to copyright.gov and then follow the procedure below:
- Select “Register a Copyright” under the “How do I…” section.
- Click on “Log in to eCO” under “eCO Registration System.”
3. Create an Account
Go to “New User” and create your account.
This step only applies to first-time applicants and requires you to have the following:
- Artist’s name
- Phone details and other contact information
- Preferred contact method
- Residence country (For applicants outside the U.S.)
4. Register a New Claim
After creating an account and logging in, the next step is beginning the copyright registration:
- Navigate to the left side of the interphase and click on “Register new claim.”
- Record the number of the songs you’re registering. If it’s multiple tracks, select “No” on the “I am registering one work” box.
- Choose the type of work you want to register for. On the “Type of Work” drop-down, select whether you’re submitting the song for registration as a “Sound Recording” or as “Performing Arts” (lyrics/written form).
- Next, click “New” and fill in the drop-down prompts like producers, publication dates, co-writers, etc.
5. Pay The Registration Fees
Note that the registration fee is paid before uploading the song.
For a single track, the cost is $35 as of 2021.
If you want to register multiple songs, such as an album, the fee is $55, regardless of their number.
You can make payments through the copyright office deposit account, credit card, electronic check, or debit card.
Here’s a more detailed guide on the fees associated with registering a song as a copyright in the U.S.
6. Upload the Song
Once you’ve submitted the payment, the site will redirect you to another interphase and request you to upload the song.
There’s no limit on the number of songs you can submit.
However, you may need to compress them so that they don’t exceed the size limit, which the site caps at approximately 135 128kbps.
Cross-check to confirm that you’ve uploaded the right songs, and then click “Upload Complete,” and you’re good to go.
Usually, it takes the Copyright Office a few months to review your submissions and approve the copyright registration.
The effective date of the copyright will start immediately when the office ratifies your filing fee, application, and submitted songs.
Other Things to Consider When Registering Your Song As a Copyright
Here are ways to avoid common mistakes most people make when registering their songs:
- Ensure the song is entirely original: The Copyright Laws forbids the registration of the same work twice. If found violating this statute or providing false information in the application process, the Copyright Office can bar you from registering your songs temporarily or permanently.
- Avoid the infamous poor man’s copyright: Some people still believe that by mailing yourself a copy of your song and not opening it, you can use the dates on the email to make infringement claims. The truth, however, is this idea doesn’t work. The law is clear on the prerequisite for an infringement lawsuit—the said work must be registered as a copyright with the U.S Copyright Office.
- There’s no such thing as copyrighting your songs for free: A quick Google search on “how to copyright my song” will bring you several sites claiming to offer free copywriting. Avoid them; they are probably scammers trying to take advantage of you. There’s only one way to register a song as a copyright, and that’s through application and payment of registration fees to the U.S Copyright Office.
As you can see, you cannot patent your song to protect it.
But you can copyright your song to protect it.
Use our guide above to protect your song, or even your entire album.