How to Copyright an Album

By Alan Craig
Register your copyrights with the Library of Congress.
black copyright symbol image by Angie Chauvin from

It’s exciting to write songs and record albums. It's also natural to want to protect your work from others who might want to steal it. You best defense is to copyright your work. In the United States, copyright protection is automatic when the work is “fixed in a tangible medium of expression.” When you record your song or album on tape, vinyl, or on a CD, you are automatically afforded copyright protection. For additional protection in the event of a lawsuit, register your copyright with the Library of Congress.

Post a notice of copyright on your album. Although not required by law, a notice of copyright ensures that the alleged infringer cannot claim he didn’t know it was copyrighted material. There are two primary copyrights to assert on your album.

The first is the copyright on the songs themselves. Make it clear that you claim ownership in the underlying song whether performed by you or some other artist. To post that notification write the word “copyright,” or else the copyright symbol (a letter “C” enclosed in a circle: ©) followed by the year you made the songs available for the public to hear and the name of the copyright owner.

The other copyright protects each song's performance. To post this notification, write the sound recording copyright symbol: a letter “P” in a circle followed by the year the recording was made available to the public, then the name of the sound recording's copyright owner.

Register with the Electronic Copyright Office by clicking on the “Electronic Copyright Office” link on the eCO Online System webpage (see the third Reference section link below). Read the “Security” and “Privacy” notices, then click on the “Continue to eCO” button. Click on the “If you are a new user, click here to register” button and fill out the forms.

Register your copyright. Click on the “Register a New Claim” link on the left of the page. Click on the “Complete an application” link.

Click on the “Start Registration” button.

Choose “Sound Recording” on the pull-down menu and click on the “Continue” button.

Complete the rest of the Web forms by filling in the information each page requests and clicking on the “Continue” button.

Pay the copyright registration fee by credit card or electronic check.