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  #1  
Old 08-28-2013, 08:51 AM
nwsht nwsht is offline
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Default Copyright and unfinished songs

Every so often I search out posts on whatever boards I can find regarding copyright and sharing of my original music.

I have a ton of music pieces-parts, along with an album worth of 85-95% complete music, where some of the songs are approaching 15 years old. Nobody has really ever heard this music except for a select few under strict confidence. While the chances of it being so good that it will be stolen is most likely slim, there is still a lot of my time invested into my music.


I know how to copyright for the most part. I'm a little confused about copyrighting the performance vs. composition, but the internet consensus on that is the performance copyright covers both.


My real problem is the unfinished work. While most of the music is complete for most of the songs, I sometimes rearrange the sequence of parts, or change length of parts, or sometimes add something new. Even more importantly, the lyrics and lyrical melody changes quite often, and my concern is that even if I do copyright something, if the lyrical melody changes, it could significantly change the whole feel of the song - rendering the copyright invalid.

How would my copyright filed pre-change protect my song with a future vocal melody change, or do I have to immediatly pony up to edit my copyright on file? Songwriting is just way too expensive...

I would like to figure this out. I would like to be able to share what I've worked on for well over a decade before I die.
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Old 08-28-2013, 09:49 AM
ombudsman ombudsman is offline
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Your work is automatically copyrighted at the point of "fixation", which for music can be written or recorded form. That would hold true for the new version of a previous piece as well.

That amount of protection is sufficient for most people. Registration is a separate thing; your work is definitely copyrighted regardless of whether or not the copyright is registered. Personally I would need a very solid reason to pay money to register a copyright.

Maybe if I was a professional songwriter who has already had significant financial success, and I was sending out new demo tapes and lead sheets of my career best stuff to various people in the business, then I might register just those. Outside of that, or other cases where a lot of money is clearly going to be flowing based on a work, it's probably overkill.

If you still feel the need to register your copyrights for additional protection, then yes you would need to repeat the registration in order to cover any additions in the revised version. Why not wait until they are finished and at least do it just the one time ? This seems like an unrealistic thing to agonize about.
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Old 08-28-2013, 10:01 AM
Bob1131 Bob1131 is offline
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In the USA, your music has copyright protection as soon as you write it and, yes, that includes the songs you have not registered with the government. Unless your songs are particularly unique in terms of melody, chord progression and lyrics, it is unlikely that anyone will steal them. However, there are so many songs being written today by amateurs and professionals alike, that some unintentional duplication of parts can occur, while theft of an entire composition seems to be very low. In other words, it is difficult to prove theft if the song is constructed of commonly used progressions and phrases.

In addition, today there are so many amateur writers out there that unintentional duplication seems unavoidable in terms of melody, chord progressions, and arrangements. In fact, I hear a lot of duplication in today's music. Therefore, defense of your copyright can sometimes prove very difficult and very costly, even if you have a certified copyright. The lyrics are probably the easiest aspect of a song to protect and defend. However, common phrases are not copyright protected, as they are "common" and used by anyone and everyone.

So, live a little and get your music out there! If it stays hidden, then your copyrights are wasted!
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Old 08-28-2013, 10:07 AM
nwsht nwsht is offline
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Thanks ombudsman,

Quote:
If you still feel the need to register your copyrights for additional protection, then yes you would need to repeat the registration in order to cover any additions in the revised version. Why not wait until they are finished and at least do it just the one time ? This seems like an unrealistic thing to agonize about.
They will never really be complete. There is always something to do, and when I revisit something to correct something technical on my punch list, I usually end up with a creative enhancement as well.

Sounds like ultimately these will always remain for my own enjoyment only.
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Old 08-28-2013, 11:13 AM
nwsht nwsht is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob1131 View Post
Unless your songs are particularly unique in terms of melody, chord progression and lyrics...
Most of my songs have a pretty unique chorus, or hook. And that's part of the reason the songs change over time, since I find it hard to write around (what I feel is) a particularly good chorus melody. I'm always trying to improve the remainder of the song to match the quality of the hook.

I suppose, since the hook rarely changes, maybe the copyrighted version will stand.

I know everything is copyrighted at the moment of record, but there is 1 in 10,000 that does get ripped off, and I have a big piece of myself into this.
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Old 08-28-2013, 12:54 PM
MikeBmusic MikeBmusic is offline
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Put an 'album' together of your songs. You don't even have to make copies of it. You can copy all the songs at 1 time as a collection for $35 with the US Copyright Office. You fill out the form, upload the MP3s, pay and a couple of months later you have the copyright form, but your works are 'protected' from the moment you finish the process.
If you change the songs later, they are considered derivative works and protected.

The comments about defending a work for copyright infringement are right on with the vast amount of songwriting happening these days, but what if ...IF... someone took your song, or piece of it and made big money? Your lawyers would have to prove that the person had heard your song, and then show that you had done it first (copyright certificate proves that beyond a shadow of a doubt). It's like insurance - you hate to pay for it, but are glad when you have it and need it.
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Old 08-28-2013, 01:56 PM
nwsht nwsht is offline
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I suppose with a collection, I could include multiple versions of a single piece in the case they have notable differences.

I may have a dozen items, but really there are probably only one or two that that really stand out.

Thank you all for taking the time to answer!
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  #8  
Old 08-28-2013, 02:46 PM
MikeBmusic MikeBmusic is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nwsht View Post
I suppose with a collection, I could include multiple versions of a single piece in the case they have notable differences.

I may have a dozen items, but really there are probably only one or two that that really stand out.

Thank you all for taking the time to answer!
Yeah just call them different names: SONG-ABC 1.0, SONG-ABC 1.2, etc.
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My music: https://mikebirchmusic.bandcamp.com

2017 Taylor 114ce-N
2012 Taylor 310ce
2011 Fender CD140SCE
Ibanez 12 string a/e
73 Epiphone 6830E 6 string (made in 71?)

72 Fender Telecaster
Epiphone Dot Studio
Epiphone LP Jr
Chinese Strat clone ($25!)

Kala baritone ukulele
Seagull 'Merlin'
Washburn Mandolin
Luna 'tatoo' a/e ukulele
antique banjolin
Squire J bass
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  #9  
Old 09-03-2013, 09:08 AM
MikeBmusic MikeBmusic is offline
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Update: US Copyright office time to receive your certificate is now about 6 weeks - got mine on Friday, filed July 10.
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My music: https://mikebirchmusic.bandcamp.com

2017 Taylor 114ce-N
2012 Taylor 310ce
2011 Fender CD140SCE
Ibanez 12 string a/e
73 Epiphone 6830E 6 string (made in 71?)

72 Fender Telecaster
Epiphone Dot Studio
Epiphone LP Jr
Chinese Strat clone ($25!)

Kala baritone ukulele
Seagull 'Merlin'
Washburn Mandolin
Luna 'tatoo' a/e ukulele
antique banjolin
Squire J bass
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