We have had a lot of questions from artists about song copyright, especially when they were about to send us their brand new compositions to be produced at our online recording studio with top industry session players they didn’t know. This is a very important question with valid concerns considering how easily information, like music, is so easily disseminated across the Internet.
Thankfully there is an easy answer to this; international law states that your composition is automatically copywritten as soon as the work is created, assuming it is an original piece. Originality basically means that you can’t take an existing piece of music and change a few notes here and there, and expect to own the song copyright. It has to meet a threshold for originality, which most of us already know what that means. Basically, don’t rip somebody off and try to call it your own. It is important to remember that copyright does not protect the idea of your song, but the expression of it. For example, anyone can write a song about a fool on a hill, but it better not sound or sing too much like A Fool On The Hill or lawyers will come knocking.
The second part of the equation is that the work needs to be in a copyrightable form, like a recording, tablature, or even a smartphone video of you playing your song. You technically acquire song copyright the instant you create it, but you can’t claim ownership of it when challenged if you have no evidence that it is yours. You can always gain some protection for your song(s) by doing things like uploading the recording to a private page on YouTube, or mailing it to yourself so you have a date stamp on the envelope from the post office. Though these methods can technically be used in court to prove you are the owner and wrote it when you did, the best way by far to enforce your copyright is to register your song(s) with the U.S. Copyright Office. Here are step by step instructions on how to do just that.