How to Protect Songs and Poems by Copyright

by Thomas King
Registering your songs and poems gives you the right to sue copyright infringers for damages.

Registering your songs and poems gives you the right to sue copyright infringers for damages.

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Original songs and poems are protected by copyright the moment they are fixed in a tangible medium of expression. However, if you want to establish a public record of your copyright and be able to sue infringers for damages, you must register your creative works with the United States Copyright Office. You can register using the online system maintained by the Copyright Office, or you can submit a paper application. Note that songs and poems must be registered separately.

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United States Copyright eCo System

Step 1

Navigate to the United States Copyright Office website (link in Resources) and click "eCo Login." On the next page, click "Continue to eCo."

Step 2

Enter your user ID or click "If you are a new user, click here to register" and fill out the registration form. After registering or typing your user ID, you will be redirected to the Electronic Copyright Office (eCo) website.

Step 3

Click "Register a New Claim" in the left pane, then click "Complete an Application."

Step 4

Answer the questionnaire on the next page. You must provide information about the work you want to register. For example, you’ll need to specify the type of work, title, author, claimant and publication information. When you are finished, submit the form and you'll be prompted to make a payment to cover filing fees using the Pay.gov system. Acceptable forms of payment include credit card and e-check. After your payment has been processed, a "Payment Successful" screen appears.

Step 5

Click "Next" in the upper right corner of the “Payment Successful” screen.

Step 6

Click "Upload Deposit" and "Browse." Select the file(s) you want to upload, such as MP3 files or PDFs. The system allows only 60 minutes of upload time, so if your file is too large to upload in that time, you will need to mail a hard copy to the Copyright Office. To do this, return to the "Payment Successful" screen, click "Send by Mail," click "Shipping Slip" and print out the shipping slip. Be sure to attach the shipping slip directly to each work or set of works that you submit.

Paper Application

Step 1

Navigate to the United States Copyright Office website. (link in Resources).

Step 2

Click "Forms" at the top of the website.

Step 3

Click "Form TX" to access the application to register poems, or click "Form SR" to access the application to register songs.

Step 4

Print out the application and fill it in using a black ink pen. The first page of the form provides line-by-line instructions.

Step 5

Attach a "deposit" – meaning a copy of the work – to the application. The deposit must represent the entire work; for example, a CD of all the songs or a book of all the poems. If the work has not been published, you must attach one copy. If the work has been previously published, attach two copies. In addition to the deposit, attach a check for the filing fees.

Step 6

Mail the application, deposit and payment to the address listed at the bottom of the application.