How to Copyright Printed Music Ideas

by Victoria McGrath
Copyright your unpublished sheet music as a single collection.

Copyright your unpublished sheet music as a single collection.

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As a songwriter, musician, composer or producer, you own basic copyrights in your musical compositions, instrumentals, songs and lyrics as soon as you create the music and fix it in a tangible form. Tangible forms include any written or recorded musical notes or words. In general, you can claim copyrights to any original musical works you create, unless the works have been commissioned by someone else or produced as works-for-hire. You can register your copyrights as published or unpublished musical works with the U.S. Copyright Office. In order to qualify for copyright registration and protection, your printed or recorded music must be fully conceptualized and not mere ideas or basic concepts. Copyright law prohibits the registration of mere ideas.

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Step 1

Complete a copyright registration application, electronically or on paper. Paper applicants use Form CO Application for Copyright. Use one application to register a group of unpublished works, a single published work, or several published works that were published at the same time by the same owner.

Step 2

Select the type of work to be registered. Unpublished and published printed music qualify under performing arts.

Step 3

Provide the title of the material, as unpublished or published print music. Give a group of unpublished material a collection name. Use the published title of the printed work for full collections or state that the published work is part of a collection.

Step 4

List the original author of the musical work and provide a specific description of the print music. Specify the type of musical work as music or lyrics. Check work-for-hire only if the work was created by an employee within the scope of employment or commission by as part of a written agreement.

Step 5

Include the year of completion of the musical work. Specify the date that the printed or recorded music first became fixed in a tangible form. List the earliest date possible, even if the print music first appeared in a rough draft form on scratch paper.

Step 6

Provide the name and address of the copyright claimant. If claimant is not the author of the musical work, the application must include a brief statement of transfer. The transfer statement explains who transferred the copyrights to the music to the current claimant.

Step 7

Complete the certification section to verify that all facts contained in the registration application are true. Sign the application and submit the registration fee.

Step 8

Deposit a complete copy of the unpublished print music. A complete copy includes all sheets of print music that belong in the collection. If the print music was published after January 1, 1978, two copies must be deposited.