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Old 06-23-2024, 06:21 AM
Slothead56 Slothead56 is offline
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Default Total song copyright question

I submitted the lyrics to a new song for copyright. Since navigating the US Copyright website is a complete exercise in double speak and non-clarity can someone please advise on the following?

Do I need to also copyright the music, i.e. the recorded version of the song for my protection?

Any advice is appreciated!
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Old 06-23-2024, 08:01 AM
JonPR JonPR is offline
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Copyright exists in both music and lyrics. At least in the melody. (There is plenty of debate - and expensive court cases - about whether other elements of a recording can be copyrighted, such as chord sequences or rhythmic patterns, but I wouldn't worry about those....)

So yes - if the melody is indeed your original creation, you need to submit that too. Notation is traditional form, but audio recording is now acceptable.
https://www.legalzoom.com/articles/h...right-my-music
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Old 06-23-2024, 08:15 AM
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Oh boy to be clear your post is a bit fuzzy.

It sounds to me like (maybe ?) you have needlessly cost yourself more money than need be, BUT

So starting at the beginning .

First understand that as soon as you put your original work on a "tangible medium" i.e. written score - physical CD or tape - or phono record - or recorded electronic digital file ( i.e. the recorded version of the song) that creates a copyright for that work words and music - period

What you are talking about is registering your original work with the US Copyright office _-Correct ?

And to clarify further
#1 You wrote a song - correct ?
#2 it includes lyrics and music -correct ?
#3 and you recorded it -correct ?

If so what you should have submitted was that recorded version (I assume on the standard form) and that would have then registered both the lyrics and the music
At this point you if you think you need to register the music also and it is on a digital file. Then I would simply submit that also via the electronic registration option for the standard form

You might check out this video from the US Copyright Office

https://stream-media.loc.gov/copyright/standard.mp4
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Old 06-23-2024, 08:30 AM
Rudy4 Rudy4 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Slothead56 View Post
I submitted the lyrics to a new song for copyright. Since navigating the US Copyright website is a complete exercise in double speak and non-clarity can someone please advise on the following?

Do I need to also copyright the music, i.e. the recorded version of the song for my protection?

Any advice is appreciated!
It appears that what you want is a copyright on your "musical work", which is defined as both music and lyrics.

The single most important thing I've learned about all things copyright is don't look for a correct answer on ANY internet forum. If your work is important to you then I'd enlist the help of a professional and forget whatever answer might be posited by any of us.
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Old 06-23-2024, 11:14 AM
Charlie Bernstein Charlie Bernstein is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Slothead56 View Post
I submitted the lyrics to a new song for copyright. Since navigating the US Copyright website is a complete exercise in double speak and non-clarity can someone please advise on the following?

Do I need to also copyright the music, i.e. the recorded version of the song for my protection?

Any advice is appreciated!
1. The short answer:

Yes.

The more of the song you submit, the better the protection. No copyright is ironclad. It's one big gray area. It often boils down to who stops paying the lawyers first.

2. About the music:

Your lyrics are now protected. You didn't include the music, so the music isn't. Sheet music is the best protection, but the copyright office now also accepts audio recordings such as CDs and casettes. Sheet music is better because print on paper won't become obsolete technology within your lifetime. But anything is better than nothing.

3. What you can copyright:

All they care about are words and melody. Chord progressions cannot be copyrighted. Titles can't be be copyrighted, either.

4. The need for protection:

If you're an amateur musician, not a professional recording artist, the likelihood of theft and the thief's subsequent profit from the theft is vanishingly small. And even if someone does profit from your work, you're not likely to ever know it happened.

Think about it. If someone steals your car, you'll know pretty quickly. But if your song gets stolen and is played on a few of the thousands of radio stations and music platforms out there, you probably won't know. If a song falls in the forest, you only hear it if you happen to be walking by at the time. And it's a big forest.*

5. What copyrighting is and isn't (and why it's a gray area):

Most people don't understand what copyrighting is. Your original work is copyrighted the moment you produce it. What you get from the copright office is registration of your copyright.

That's why it's murky. Someone can always come along and try to prove that they wrote the words or music first. The registration is simply your own proof that you did it first. Its value is that it's official documentation, which carries great weight in court. But it doesn't bind the court to anything.

6. Getting help:

There's nothing wrong with asking here, but we're not the experts or final arbiters. Questions emailed to the copyright office are answered promptly. You're learn more asking them than you will asking us.

------------------

* Doc Pomus was one of America's most successful profession songwriters (Save the Last Dance for Me, This Magic Moment, Little Sister, Viva Las Vegas). He was in a bar one night and heard a song he'd written playing on the jukebox. He looked at the record label and called the publisher and said it was his song. The publisher said, "Oh! You must want some money!"

That was his first song sale. So it happens. But keep in mind:

- That was the 1950s. There weren't tens of thousands of Americans writing and recording original music.

- The music market wasn't fragmented. There weren't separate radio stations for country, rock, soul, folk, and pop. It was all one big style free-for-all. The Top 100 had all that and more.

- Songwriting-for-profit wasn't controlled by a handful of industry gatekeepers who only back artists who sound like Tears for Fears or Taylor.

Last edited by Charlie Bernstein; 06-23-2024 at 12:30 PM.
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  #6  
Old 06-23-2024, 11:32 AM
Charlie Bernstein Charlie Bernstein is offline
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Originally Posted by Rudy4 View Post
. . . The single most important thing I've learned about all things copyright is don't look for a correct answer on ANY internet forum.
Hi, Rudy! I've gotten solid copyright advice from internet forums. But I heartily agree with your point: Slothead shouldn't assume that everything we say is true.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rudy4 View Post
If your work is important to you then I'd enlist the help of a professional and forget whatever answer might be posited by any of us.
Actually, I've found that the people at the copyright office are glad to answer questions. I wouldn't sink more money into hiring someone to do the work. It's not that hard. Anyone smart enough to write a song is smart enough to submit a copyright application.

Last edited by Charlie Bernstein; 06-23-2024 at 12:32 PM.
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Old 06-23-2024, 01:56 PM
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While it is true that one can sometimes get less than accurate advice
OTOH that fact by no means makes forum advice always inaccurate

And as Charlie says there is lots of good info available on the Copyright office website. Sometimes it takes some searching and reading
For example here is the FAQ page from the Copyright office itself


Frequently Asked Questions. https://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/f...tion.%E2%80%9D
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  #8  
Old 06-23-2024, 02:38 PM
Charlie Bernstein Charlie Bernstein is offline
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PS -

Hey, Slothead — I'm wondering about the "Total" in your thread title. Are you wondering whether both words and music should be submitted as one creative work?

Yes, they should. There's nothing wrong with submitting them separately or submitting one but not the other. But I can't think of reason to do it that way. I've never heard of it.

You can even register a whole album as one copyrighted creation. Then all the songs in it will be protected. That saves you time and money.
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Old 06-23-2024, 04:39 PM
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One thing, if it is anything like writing a book, which I am assuming it is, just because you register your copyright that doesn't mean the FBI is going to go out looking for people playing your song and enforce it. It is up to you to do that. And if by chance someone famous steals your song and it becomes a big hit, you are going to have to sue them, no one else will do it for you.
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Old 06-24-2024, 07:24 AM
Rudy4 Rudy4 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rllink View Post
One thing, if it is anything like writing a book, which I am assuming it is, just because you register your copyright that doesn't mean the FBI is going to go out looking for people playing your song and enforce it. It is up to you to do that. And if by chance someone famous steals your song and it becomes a big hit, you are going to have to sue them, no one else will do it for you.
All very true.

I watched as one of my music friends went through the process, discovering that a portion of one of his recordings had been sampled and used by a top tier world music artist. He would have never known, except his son who was in college actually heard the part from his recording in the artist's song when he was listening to the radio.

My friend had recorded and released the album in Texas several years prior and the artist ended up liking an instrumental part from his album after purchasing the LP as a "cut out" in a record store. That portion of the recording eventually found its way onto the major release that his son heard on the radio.

It eventually evolved into a full legal battle with a court hearing where there was testimony presented that proved the album sampling was irrefutably from his released recording.

He was awarded enough to purchase the equivalent of a small home, but the experience left a very bad taste for the whole process of both copyright and the process of fighting violation.
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Old 06-24-2024, 06:30 PM
The Bard Rocks The Bard Rocks is offline
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Go ahead and call the Copyright office. They were surprisingly helpful and did not take eons to answer the phone either. In my case, I waited until I had 60 or so original songs, then made up a songbook of them, complete with the lyrics and notation. I sent it via email as I recall. So the collection is technically what is copyrighted, but that includes every single piece within it.
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Old 06-24-2024, 09:53 PM
Chipotle Chipotle is offline
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Originally Posted by The Bard Rocks View Post
In my case, I waited until I had 60 or so original songs, then made up a songbook of them, complete with the lyrics and notation. I sent it via email as I recall. So the collection is technically what is copyrighted, but that includes every single piece within it.
You implicitly have a copyright on a piece--lyrics and melody, as others have stated--the moment you write it.

Registering the copyright with the US Copyright Office allows you to prove that creation and claim damages if somebody uses your work without your permission. As Charlie Bernstein notes, for most of us that's a very unlikely possibility... but as Rudy4 says, it can happen. But it's up to you to take the thief to court, and it's not always easy or cut-and-dried.

As for a collection as The Bard mentions, if you do things that way, you may end up getting less in damages if you do have to sue someone. Copyright awards are per copyrighted work and can be "prorated" based on how much of the work is lifted. If you have a collection of 10 songs, and somebody steals one, you can only collect 1/10th the award you'd have gotten if the song were copyrighted by itself.
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Old 06-24-2024, 11:58 PM
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Here’s a hypothetical.

You take a poem a famous poet wrote in 1895, and a harmonic structure (bass figure) a famous musician wrote in 1741. You choose chords within that structure, taking free rein to use second or third inversions over the bass figure, as well as minors, augmented, sevenths, ninths, etc. You compose a melody over those chords for the verse, add some instrumentation and background vocals, and record “your song.”

What part of that can you copyright? Clearly it’s “Lyrics by (that poet),” but who would the music be by if you chose the chords and melody over someone else’s bass line?

I’m thinking about American Tune and St. Matthew Passion.

He’s So Fine and My Sweet Lord also come to mind.
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Old 06-25-2024, 01:53 AM
JonPR JonPR is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by b1j View Post
Here’s a hypothetical.

You take a poem a famous poet wrote in 1895, and a harmonic structure (bass figure) a famous musician wrote in 1741. You choose chords within that structure, taking free rein to use second or third inversions over the bass figure, as well as minors, augmented, sevenths, ninths, etc. You compose a melody over those chords for the verse, add some instrumentation and background vocals, and record “your song.”

What part of that can you copyright? Clearly it’s “Lyrics by (that poet),” but who would the music be by if you chose the chords and melody over someone else’s bass line?

I’m thinking about American Tune and St. Matthew Passion.

He’s So Fine and My Sweet Lord also come to mind.
Yes, but you're forgetting the rule about public domain and statute of limitation. IOW, the copyright has expired in the first examples. It hadn't in the second.

In the US it works like this: https://www.copyright.gov/history/co...bit/lifecycle/
(A little different in the UK)
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Old 06-25-2024, 05:47 AM
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Here's what I did as best I can remember.

I registered 11 songs as an album as one piece under 2 seperate categories.

One for "musical works published on the same album", this includes music, lyrics and the CD artwork that I had created as a work for hire.

One also for the "sound recordings published on the same album".

There were 2 different forms to fill out and 2 fees to pay. I uploaded everything digitally and mailed in 2 CDs.

I did all this after writing, recording, mixing, registering with BMI, getting ISRC numbers for each song, mastering, having artwork created and pressing CDs.

If you're an independent artist you basically have to do everything that a publishing company and a record label would do and more.
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