MBP003 : How To Copyright Songs On Your Album

Welcome to Episode 3 of The Music Business podcast. In this episode, we look at how to copyright songs on your album.

Listen to the Audio

In this episode James talks about:

  • Music copyright basics
  • US music copyright
  • UK music copyright

Please leave a comment below and tell me what you think.





Aloha, Ola, Hello. This is Louis-Virie Blanche, I’m a singer, songwriter, producer. My question pertains to having a large body of albums, say over a dozen albums that are finished. On top of writing songs, I’m working on four albums, 12 songs each. Is it best that I copyright each individual song, or copyright the four albums as a body of work? My website is [email protected] I appreciate your insight on this matter, both from a marketing creative perspective, and a legal perspective. Thank you.

James Taylor: Hey Louis-Virie, that’s a great question, and your question is should I copyright each individual song on an album, or copyright the four albums as one body of work? Now, this is a question I get asked a lot because there’s often a lot of confusion around the registration of copyrights. Essentially you want to make sure that you’re recognized as the owner, both from a financial perspective and from a general credit perspective as well.

I mean, you will find that if your work is used by someone else and they claim it to be theirs, then in a court of law they would actually have to open up, whether electronically to find out if you registered initially, or the old school, what we call the poor man’s copyright registration using an envelope, just to make sure who registered it first and under what name, etc.

So, let’s bring up what exactly I suggest what I want you to do. For US citizens, if you’re based in the US, just go to copyright.gov, and on that site you’ll see, the US government’s website, you’ll see the Electronic Copyright Office. Now, it cost $35 to register each work. So if you’ve got four albums, and let’s say there’s 12 tracks in each album, that’s gonna be a fairly chunk of change. So you probably don’t want to do that. However, I also advise you not to register all four album as one work. It could get a little messy, I would say, and to keep it kind of a little bit clearer, I would register a whole album as a work.

So, when you go on to that site copyright.gov, go and register the whole album as a work. What they’ll ask you to is, is they’ll ask you to upload the individual tracks from the album. And then you pay you $35 dollars, and you’ll get a notification that the work, i.e., the whole album which includes those tracks, has been registered and that’s what we need. So if you have four albums, we’ve got four times $35, that’s gonna be your cost. $35, it exchanges, a couple of times, I’m not so sure how much it is as of right now, but it’s usually not that much.

Now, if you are in the UK, there’s another way of doing it. Sometimes called poor man’s copyright registration, which is where you, let’s say you’ve recorded an album, some kind of physical form, a CD, or maybe it’s written out, but a CD is a recording, and you put it in an envelope, and you put a stamp on the back of it, mail it to yourself, and don’t open it, put it in a filing cabinet. That way, if anyone ever claims that they wrote that song, or recorded it originally, or whatever the thing is, then that could be given to a court of law, the judge could open it, and they can see that it’s got the date on it, and they’re sure you registered it on that particular day, that you created it on that particular date.

Now, if you are going to do these four albums and are based in the UK or Europe, what I suggest you do, rather than send yourself one envelope with all four albums in it, and have them date stamp over it, and mail it back to yourself, then put it in a drawer, I would do one envelope for each album. And then, when I’m mailing that to myself, on the back of each envelope, I would write what’s actually in the packet as well. So, let’s say if you have album B, that you’re sending to yourself, put in “recording of album B” even if it’s just a rough DVR, in the envelope, write album B on the back, put a stamp on it, get you post office stamp the date stamp on it, you can even send it to yourself registered delivery if you want it to go that far, and when you receive it back from the mail, from yourself, then just put it in a drawer. That way, if ever you’re asked in a court of law, whether a song in that particular album has been infringed, then rather than have to open up all these packets in front of the judge, there’s just one you can just pull that actually says this is the work.

So, that’s how I would suggest you copyright these different albums, that said, I’m not a lawyer so you could always take advice, this is general advice I could give to you and songwriters and other artists I write with.

NOTE: In the US the ‘poor-man’s copyright’ as described above offers no protection and it is best to register at copyright.gov.

So, Louis-Virie, I hope that’s been useful to you. My name is James Taylor from Music Business Institute.com.

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