How to Get Music Copyright

By Christina Dillon
Original music is protected under copyright laws without formal registration.
sheet music image by Dianne Burridge from

As soon as you create a song or other musical work, it is protected by copyright laws. Registration with the Copyright Office is not necessary, but it can provide the author with some advantages. For example, if you plan to sue for infringement, it is beneficial for you to have a registered copyright.

Choose your registration method. Registering your copyright online at is the fastest and least expensive method. You may also download an application, complete it on your computer and mail it in to the Copyright Office. If necessary, you may obtain paper copies of these forms by writing to the Library of Congress at U.S. Copyright Office-PA, 101 Independence Avenue, SE Washington, DC 20559-6233.

Complete the application. You must enter information such as the title and author of your work, year of completion and copyright claimant, which is the person or organization who claims all copyrights. If the claimant is not the author, you will need to describe how the claimant came to own the work.

Classify your work as published or unpublished. If your song has yet to be published, you will need to submit one complete copy of the song, whether in sheet music or audio recording. Once the work has been published, you must deposit two complete works with the Copyright Office. Failure to do so will not affect your copyright protection but may result in a fine or other penalty. If you are copyrighting a song that has already been published, in most cases you will need to submit two complete copies with the application. Only one copy is needed if the song was first published outside of the U.S. before March 1, 1989, or if the song was only published on disk or tape. If you have published multiple editions of the same song, choose the one you feel most clearly represents your work. It should be complete and have the most polished presentation. For example, you would choose a special limited edition, bound with archival-quality paper over a standard trade edition.

Submit your completed application with the registration fee. As of January, 2011, the fee to complete an online application is $35. If you are sending in a paper application, you will need to include a check or money order for $65.

Expect feedback from the Copyright Office. You will receive a phone call if they need more information to process your copyright claim. Otherwise, you will either receive a certificate of registration or letter of rejection.

About the Author

Christina Dillon is a freelance writer who has been writing professionally since 2008. She has published articles on various different topics including home and garden, travel, weddings and Internet marketing. She is now writing informational articles for various websites. Dillon graduated from Berkeley College with a degree in marketing.