How to Copyright Printed Music Ideas

By Victoria McGrath

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 You can register your copyrights as published or unpublished musical works with the U.S. Copyright Office.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.

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 Use one application to register a group of unpublished works, a single published work, or several published works that were published at the same time by the same owner.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 Unpublished and published printed music qualify under performing arts.

Protect against infringement by registering a copyright. Get Started Now

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Provide the title of the material, as unpublished or published print music. Give a group of unpublished material a collection name.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.

Protect against infringement by registering a copyright. Get Started Now
How to Apply for a Copyright


Related articles

How Rappers Copyright Their Work

Rappers, producers and record labels need to protect their hip-hop music, rap lyrics and musical beats from unauthorized use, including sampling by other artists. A rapper or producer automatically secures a copyright in both the lyrics and the beat of a rap once it is created and fixed in a tangible form. Tangible forms include written song lyrics, sheet music and audio-visual recordings. Copyrights apply to both scripted lyrics with keyboard beats produced in a studio and improvisational raps with spontaneous instrumentals created live. However, a live performance must be captured in a tangible form to secure a copyright. Federal copyright registration provides a legal presumption of copyright ownership.

A List of Copyright Rules & Procedures

Copyrights protect original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. They prohibit anyone other than the author from copying or performing the work without the author's permission. Violation of a copyright is called infringement. If your copyright has been infringed, you may be entitled to damages. These protections are provided by the U.S. federal government. They are embodied in Title 17 of the U.S. Code. State protections also exist, but these vary from state to state.

How to Get a Play Copyrighted

A play qualifies for copyright protection, typically as a literary work and performing art. However, several broad copyright categories apply to plays, such as literary work, dramatic work, choreographed work, musical compositions, sound recordings, motion pictures, pictorial, graphic and sculptural work and even architectural work. The playwright automatically secures basic copyright in the script once it's fixed in a tangible form. These include paper manuscripts, electronic document files, recorded live performances and published short or full length plays. A playwright should also apply for federal copyright registration as soon as possible. This optional registration provides many benefits, including exclusive ownership and publication rights of a play.


Related articles

How to Copyright Your Comic Creations

Comic creations feature an abundance of copyrightable matter, including detailed art work, unique graphics and creative ...

How to Copyright Something in Canada

Under Canadian law, a copyright is created as soon as you reduce an original work of authorship to tangible form. Full ...

How to Copyright Sculptures

A sculptor automatically secures "common law" copyrights in a sculpture as soon as it is created and fixed in a ...

How to File a Copyright Application With the U.S. Copyright Office

As the author of an original creative work, you automatically acquire basic copyrights as soon as you create the work ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED