How To Protect Your Songs

protect songs

Videos by American Songwriter

Fear of infringement is a big issue with musicians looking to make sure they’re properly credited and compensated for their efforts.  But what can George P. Songwriter do to make sure his songs are locked up tighter than Fort Knox?

The best way to protect yourself from legal hassles about your song is to register it with the Library of Congress.

Your work is technically under copy protection in the United States once it is fixed in tangible form.  However, registering with the Library of Congress creates public record and provides far superior legal advantages should there be an issue with your song or sound recording down the road.

There are two main ways to submit your works to the library of congress to claim ownership of your works. You can complete either process online or through the mail.  It involves a straight-forward submission process:

  1. Fill out the registration form
  2. Submit a fee of $35 (online) or $65 (by mail)
  3. Submit your work

You can do this online at eCO (Electronic Copyright Office).


You can check out form PA for registering songs by mail here:

You can check out form SR for registering sound recordings by mail here:

When submitting songs for copyright protection you can submit either sheet music or a sound recording as a means of physical expression. If you’re registering online, you can still submit a physical sample by mail.

Should you wish to save some cash and want to register multiple unpublished songs at once, you can provided you meet a few guidelines:

  • The elements are assembled in an orderly form
  • The combined elements bear a single title identifying the collection as a whole (ie: Songwriter Bill’s Songbook)
  • The copyright claimant in all the elements and in the collection as a whole is the same (you cannot register 2 songs you wrote, and 3 songs someone else wrote together)
  • All the elements are by the same author, or, if they are by different authors, at least one of the authors has contributed copyrightable authorship to each element ( you wrote 5 songs and co-wrote another 5 songs)

You can also register multiple published songs if they are all first published together in the same publication on the same date and owned by the same claimant.

Once your work is submitted, it must go through the following process (as explained on the Library of Congress website):

  • The Copyright Office receives your package, and your registration becomes effective on that day. They receive about 2,400 submissions each business day.
  • The financial department processes your payment.
  • They examine your application and deposit and make sure they’re acceptable and meet the requirements of Copyright law and regulations.
  • Your registration is assigned a number and a certificate of registration is issued. You’ll receive that certificate in the mail about 4 months after you submit your package.
  • Catalogers create an online, searchable public record of your registration.

With the advent of fancy interweb-technologies, registering songs and sound recordings is easier than ever.  If you get a song licensed in a commercial or recorded by an artist, this is very important!

As an artist, be sure to get your hard work submitted to the Library of Congress and rest assured your songs will always be yours!

Andy Lykens is a music branding and marketing specialist for Imagem Music, the world’s largest independent music publisher. Follow him here.


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