How Rappers Copyright Their Work

Men rapping
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Rappers, producers and record labels need to protect their hip-hop music, rap lyrics and musical beats from unauthorized use, including sampling by other artists. A rapper or producer automatically secures a copyright in both the lyrics and the beat of a rap once it is created and fixed in a tangible form. Tangible forms include written song lyrics, sheet music and audio-visual recordings. Copyrights apply to both scripted lyrics with keyboard beats produced in a studio and improvisational raps with spontaneous instrumentals created live. However, a live performance must be captured in a tangible form to secure a copyright. Federal copyright registration provides a legal presumption of copyright ownership.

Create unique beats cautiously, without sampling from other artists. Write down lyrics and musical compositions prior to studio sessions or immediately after improvisational performances. Make sound or video recordings of each rehearsal and performance throughout the creative process.

Read More: How Do I Copyright My Lyrics for Free?

Keep a hard copy of the lyrics, sheet music and recording in an envelope. Label the envelope with the title, date, time, location and address of the creation. Collect names and signatures of other individuals present.

Decide whether to file your copyright registration applications on your own or through a hired agent. Consult with an attorney, use an online legal service or apply directly through the United States Copyright Office.

Review copyright basics and learn about the application process on the United States Copyright Office website. Access the electronic Copyright Office (eCO) to file an online application. Complete application online before you print it.

Select the appropriate copyright registration application based on the type of work being registered. Fill in the type of work to be registered, title of each song or collection of music, and year of completion. Include the author's personal name, organizational name and/or doing business as name, date of birth and citizenship. Specify the author's contributions if there is more than one author.

Complete the name, address and contact information of the copyright claimant. The copyright claimant is the individual or organization filing the application, typically the legal owner of the copyright material. The author and copyright claimant may or may not be the same person or organization.

Prepare a sample of each work to be submitted with the application. Title each individual rap then organize the music into musical collections. Assign a group title to each collection. Label each work with the title of the song, followed by the words "contained in" and the title of the musical collection.

Certify the registration application as the copyright claimant. Complete the certification section with a printed name, handwritten signature and date signed. Upload samples of the work, as individual works or an entire collection. Pay applicable registration fees. Save and print a copy of the registration.


  • File for federal copyright registration prior to any public performance to create a legal presumption of ownership rights against claims of original authorship by others.


  • Fill in the year of completion as the earliest date possible. The year of completion refers to the first date the creator fixed the work in a tangible form. The copyright protection starts on that date.

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