My first experience with copyrighting my own music came about a year and a half ago, when I started getting serious about my music career. At the time, I was working with a producer in another state, and was writing & sending music without any second thoughts. One of my dear friends, out of concern for my musical success & future, told me I should copyright my music before sending it to anyone or posting it in any public domains. I took her advice—as well as signed up for an “Introduction to Business in the Music Industry” class—and submitted all of my songs for copyrighting.
The copyright process was tedious, so tedious, in fact, that before I’d opened up this blog, I decided one of my first entries must be a step-by-step guide on the process. “Doesn’t the website have instructions?” Yes…very tedious ones. “Why blog about this?” Quite frankly, because my heart is for integrity as it relates to the artist’s creative process. The realist in me knows there are hungry people out there lacking character who would love to profit off of the stolen ideas of others; and since I believe in the creative potential of others, it is essential for people to know how to protect their ideas, which in turn is protecting their investments & future. Whatever I can do to make the process easier for others makes me happy.
**One tidbit really quickly, the so-called “Poor Man’s Copyright”, although a helluva effort, will not, DOES NOT hold up in court & is not considered a real copyright, so going through this process is crucial if you really want your product protected.
What you’ll need: A debit/credit card or checking account with $35 dollars in it—depending on how many different types of copyrights you’ll need—and patience. You can submit multiple files under one $35 claim. If you have questions along the way, click on the following link http://www.copyright.gov/help/ and contact customer service. Lets proceed.
1- Remove your Pop-Up blocker.
2- Do not at ANY time during this process use the “BACK” button!
3- Go to this website: http://www.copyright.gov/
4- Click on the “eCo Login” link or logo.
5- Click on the same “eCo” logo again.
6- Click on the “Continue to eCo” button.
7- Click on the “if you are a new user, click here to register” link.
8- Fill in the information AND be sure your password has letters, numbers AND symbols.
9- Click Finish
10- Under “Copyright Services”, click on “Register a New Claim”.
11- Click on “Start Registration”.
12- Select the TYPE of work. (So if you’re submitting MUSIC, select “Sound Recording” or if it’s lyrics, select “Literary Work”); then press the greenish “Continue” button.
13- Click the “New” button.
14- Select a “Title type”. (I usually select “Title of work being registered.”
15- Give your work a title, then press the “Save” button.
16- Press the “Continue” button.
17- Select “Yes” or “No” for the “is this work published” question. Don’t worry about a preregistration number, unless you have one, and hit the “Continue” button.
18- The next screen will ask you for the name of the authors involved. Click “New”.
19- Fill out the Author information AS WELL AS the required fields. If you don’t have a DBA, don’t fill it out. Hit “Save”.
20- The next page will ask about the author’s contribution. It’s important to include ALL AUTHORS if there is more than one. Make your selections, then hit “Save”.
21- Click “new” & fill in all required fields including city, state & zip where you want to receive your copyright certificate when the process is complete, then click “Save”. If there are no other authors, click “Continue”.
22- If none of what’s on the “limit your claim” page pertains to you—as in your work is original, not based on anyone else’s—hit the “Continue” button.
23- This screen will ask you whom you’d like the copyright office to contact about your copyright. If the contact is you, hit the “Add Me” button, then the “Continue” button.
24- Repeat the same steps for the next page depending on your situation.
25- If you want your certificate sent to you, hit the “Add Me” button. If it’s being sent to another location, enter the correct address.
26- The next section is the “special handling” page. If you do not want to be charged $760 for special handling, then do not check any of the boxes. For the $35 copyright price, leave all fields unchecked and press “Continue”.
27- The Certification page. If you’ve been honest on this application, check the box, type your name & click “Continue”.
28- Review your application & make sure all fields are correct, then press “Add to Cart”.
29- Hit the “Check Out” button.
30- I suggest doing the “Pay Credit/ ACH” option, because it goes through right away. The “Pay Account Deposit” process is longer, & can take a few days. MAKE SURE YOUR POP-UP BLOCKER IS OFF! Click “Pay Credit/ ACH”.
31- The copyright.gov website will ask if you want to proceed. Click “ok” if you do & “cancel” if you don’t.
32- DO NOT USE THE BACK BUTTON.
33- Fill out the information and continue to the next screen.
34- You should see an “Upload Deposit” button. If not, click on the “home” link in the upper right hand corner, click on your open case. You’ll see the “Upload Deposit” button.
35- Attach what you’d like to copyright and write a description. If you click on the “acceptable file type” and “acceptable file size” links if you have any concerns about what file types & sizes are accepted.
36- Click the “Submit Files to Copyright Office” button.
37- You should see an “Upload Successful” screen. This completes your copyright process.
If you have any additional questions about the copyright process, like when you’ll receive your certificate, or when your music, poetry, etc, is considered protected, click on this link http://www.copyright.gov/help/ and call customer service.