How to Get a Copyright for an Instrumental

By Grygor Scott
Copyright laws protect original musical compositions, including instrumental compositions.

Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

A copyright for an original instrumental is automatically created when the composition is either written down as sheet music or recorded on a CD or other format. A copyright gives the creator of a musical composition or arrangement exclusive rights to the work for a fixed period, usually the creator’s life plus 70 years. The copyright owner can prevent others from performing, reproducing or selling the composition without permission or mandatory compensation.

Copyright Registration

You don’t need to register a copyright, but registration has several benefits. You must register a copyright before filing an infringement lawsuit, and registration provides strong evidence of your ownership in court. Registration also allows you to get specific monetary awards allowed by U.S. copyright laws, rather than having to prove the amount of actual financial harm caused by the unauthorized use. You can register a copyright by obtaining the official forms from the United States Copyright Office. You can mail the completed forms or file them in person with the Copyright Office. On-line registration through the Copyright Office’s eCo registration system allows you to conveniently submit your registration application electronically. You must also submit your sheet music or sound recording for deposit to the U.S. Copyright Office at the Library of Congress.

Sound Recordings

A copyright for a composition gives you the right to make and sell the first sound recording of your instrumental. Copyright laws allow others to make subsequent sound recordings, but they generally must compensate the copyright owner when doing so. Such fees are determined by a mandatory federal licensing law. Specific questions about copyright laws and protection procedures can be answered by your attorney.

About the Author

Grygor Scott has written professionally since 1991, with a focus on law, government, food and travel. His work has appeared in "New York Resident" and on several websites. The author of more than 20 nonfiction books, Scott graduated with honors from the University of North Carolina School of Law.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article