How Rappers Copyright Their Work

By Victoria McGrath

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.

Step 1

Create unique beats cautiously, without sampling from other artists. Write down lyrics and musical compositions prior to studio sessions or immediately after improvisational performances. Make sound or video recordings of each rehearsal and performance throughout the creative process.

Step 2

Keep a hard copy of the lyrics, sheet music and recording in an envelope. Label the envelope with the title, date, time, location and address of the creation. Collect names and signatures of other individuals present.

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Step 3

Decide whether to file your copyright registration applications on your own or through a hired agent. Consult with an attorney, use an online legal service or apply directly through the United States Copyright Office.

Step 4

Review copyright basics and learn about the application process on the United States Copyright Office website. Access the electronic Copyright Office (eCO) to file an online application. Complete application online before you print it.

Step 5

Select the appropriate copyright registration application based on the type of work being registered. Fill in the type of work to be registered, title of each song or collection of music, and year of completion. Include the author's personal name, organizational name and/or doing business as name, date of birth and citizenship. Specify the author's contributions if there is more than one author.

Step 6

Complete the name, address and contact information of the copyright claimant. The copyright claimant is the individual or organization filing the application, typically the legal owner of the copyright material. The author and copyright claimant may or may not be the same person or organization.

Step 7

Prepare a sample of each work to be submitted with the application. Title each individual rap then organize the music into musical collections. Assign a group title to each collection. Label each work with the title of the song, followed by the words "contained in" and the title of the musical collection.

Step 8

Certify the registration application as the copyright claimant. Complete the certification section with a printed name, handwritten signature and date signed. Upload samples of the work, as individual works or an entire collection. Pay applicable registration fees. Save and print a copy of the registration.

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References

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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 and fix it in a tangible form. A tangible form refers to physical documentation, from a pencil drawing on a cocktail napkin to a first draft of a screenplay or an audiovisual recording of an opera. When you file a copyright application, you claim ownership of the material. Once the copyright office processes your application, it makes your copyright registration information public through its federal database of U.S. copyrights. Copyright registration requires a certified application, filing fee and deposit of the original material.

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.

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 legal protection, however, does not attach until you register your copyright with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office. You don't have to be a Canadian citizen or resident to obtain copyright protection or register your copyright. Copyright protection in Canada guarantees you copyright protection in any nation that has signed an international copyright treaty.

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