How to Run a Copyright Check for Songs

By Thomas King

Copyright protection begins automatically as soon as a song is created and fixed in a tangible medium (such as a compact disc). Nevertheless, many artists decide to take the additional step of registering their songs with the United States Copyright Office. This allows the artist to bring a claim for copyright infringement should the need arise. You can search for registered songs using the United States Copyright Office records.

Copyright protection begins automatically as soon as a song is created and fixed in a tangible medium (such as a compact disc). Nevertheless, many artists decide to take the additional step of registering their songs with the United States Copyright Office. This allows the artist to bring a claim for copyright infringement should the need arise. You can search for registered songs using the United States Copyright Office records.

For Songs Registered From 1978 to Present

Step 1

Navigate to the United States Copyright Office website. Click the "Search Records" tab at the top of the website. Click "Search the Catalog" under the "Online Records" heading.

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Step 2

Click "Set Search Limits." Select "Music" if you are searching for the musical composition (i.e. the sheet music) of the song or "Sound Recording" if you are searching for the actual recording of the song . Note that you can also select "Sound Recordings and Music" to conduct a search for both.

Step 3

Click "Set Search Limits." Select the search criteria (i.e. the title of the song, name of the artist, etc.) from the "Search by" box and type the accompanying information in the "Search For" box.

Step 4

Click "Begin Search." Any songs matching the criteria will appear on the "Public Catalog" screen.

For Songs Registered Prior To 1978

Step 1

Navigate to the United States Copyright Office: Search Request Estimate website.

Step 2

Fill out the Search Request Estimate form and click "Submit." The form will be received by a staff member who will conduct a search based on the information you supplied. Note that the staff charges by the hour. Thus, the more information you supply in the form, the better. If you would rather conduct a manual search at no cost, continue to the next step.

Step 3

Visit your local library and ask to view the Catalog of Copyright Entries. These entries were printed by the Copyright Office from 1891 to 1978. However, not all of the information is recorded in the catalog. The only free alternative is to visit the Library of Congress at the address below and conduct your own manual search. Library of Congress Copyright Office–IRD Records Research and Certification Section 101 Independence Avenue SE Washington, DC 20559-6300 fax: (202) 252-3485 tel: (202) 707-6850

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How to Find Copyrighted Materials

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How to Find Information on Copyrights

A copyright prevents others from unfairly using what the U.S. Copyright Office refers to as “an original work of authorship,” such as a book or a piece of music. Learning whether such works are copyrighted can be an arduous task. The difficulty lies in determining whether a copyright exists and whether it has expired. The matter is further complicated because expiration dates vary depending on when and where the copyright application is filed. Online copyright search services can be helpful in making a search, but even they do not always reveal whether the copyright was assigned to someone else.

Copyright Issues Involving Music

A piece of recorded music is covered by two copyrights. The copyright in the composition protects the music and lyrics, if any, and is usually owned by the songwriter. The producer or record company owns a separate copyright in the sound recording, which protects the audio engineering and production of the recording. These copyrights provide their owners with the exclusive right to make copies of the music and distribute it to others, perform the music and create derivative works.

How Can I Check If a Document Is Copyrighted?

In the United States, the federal government controls official copyright registrations. Any creator that wants statutory copyright protection must register the creative work with the U.S Copyright Office. Centralizing registration in one government database makes checking to see if a particular document has an official copyright registration a one-stop project. Keep in mind that an owner of a creative work that is not registered with the U.S. Copyright Office still has a common law copyright of the work. A work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. Official registration only affects the owner's ability to sue for infringement under federal law.

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