You and/or your band work hard on writing songs, and no one wants his rights to those songs stolen. Therefore, it is important to copyright those songs, and prove they belong to you. This is called your intellectual property. Two parts of music, lyrics and melody, can be copyrighted. The method to copyrighting both of these is pretty much the same. Once a song is recorded, you can own the rights to the recording as well. Once everything is copyrighted, no one can reproduce a song without your permission.
Have Tangible Evidence
It is always a good idea to have some tangible evidence that you wrote the song. Writing it down on paper is the best form of this. No matter what you write on, even if it’s a napkin, make sure you include your name and the date. A crude recording is also a good example of proof that the song is yours. It can be on a CD, as a computer file, on a tape recorder, anything. It is even more helpful if you start the recording with the name of the song, your name, and the date. If you need to prove the song is yours in court, technically any tangible evidence acts as a copyright. However, it is much easier to prove ownership if you officially copyright the song and publish it.
How to Officially Copyright
The most important thing to do is to actually copyright the song. To do this, you’ll need to use the copyright office. In the US, you can use copyright.gov. To file for a copyright, you’ll need to fill out the copyright registration form, pay a small fee (currently $35) and submit a non-returnable copy of the work or works. A work can be just one song, or a whole album. The fee is non-refundable. Once these three elements are deposited with the copyright office, the work is officially copyrighted, regardless of how long processing takes.
Another useful way to prove ownership of a song is to publish it. If you can afford it, record the song and put it out for sale. You can register with ASCAP, The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, for free. It is the leading organization for protecting the rights of copyrighted materials. Just create the name of your publisher. If you use your name + Publishing like “Jon Smith Publishing,” it’ll be easier to cash royalty checks. If you follow these steps, you should have no problem proving ownership of the song lyrics, and you’ll have the rights to the song.