During my time at one P.R.O., I was surprised at how many ‘artists’ had no idea how to correctly register songs with the United States Copyright Office. You MUST become owners of your own material. After all you’ve put so much time & passion into the creation of the work – why not make sure you’re protected against people that may want to steal it? Now, it’s true once your songs are in tangible form, i.e. a cd, the material is technically copyright protected. But in the midst of litigation and dealing with the federal government , you don’t want to base your copyright infringement case on a technicality. **The mailbox rule is another falsehood. Mailing a copy of your song to yourself with a postmarked date upon the package means nothing.

The two copyright forms you’ll need to know immediately are PASR.

Form PA is used for published and unpublished performance arts. PA generally includes any work that is planned to be “performed” directly before an audience or indirectly via “means of devices or process”.  This includes motion pictures, audiovisual presentations,  musical works, etc. Here’s an example – if you’re a producer and you create a demo with lyrics and accompanying music but you’re only interested in claiming ownership to the underlying music, this is the form for you.

Form SR is used for published and unpublished sound recordings. It is used for registration of the particular sounds or a particular recorded performance. SR should be used if you wish to make a single registration for both sound recording and original work (music composition). You may make a single registration only if the copyright claimant is the same for both sound recording and musical composition. For example – as the producer you would like to seek ownership on both the underlying music and lyrics of only this particular recording, this is the form for you.

Processing takes approx. 1-2 months and costs $45, however, the copyright office has streamlined the process by creating an online form (Form CO). Its processed much faster and the fee is lowered to $35. Simply follow the instructions provided (here by musicbizadvice). If you prefer the basic way, it will cost you the regular $45 fee. Visit http://www.copyright.gov, find the necessary document, print, fill, sign, and mail to:

U.S. Copyright Office
101 Independence Ave. S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20559-6000