Brent is a hit songwriter with cuts by Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Lady Antebellum, Joe Nichols, Gord Bamford, Ray Stevens, and more. He’s written a top 5 hit in the US and a #1 in Canada… so far.
Should I copyright my song?
That’s a question I used to ask, and it’s one I’ve heard a lot over the years from other songwriters. Here are my thoughts on it. Hopefully, this will give you some answers, some guidance and some peace. By the way, I am NOT a lawyer, so this is NOT legal advice. Always check with a legal professional before making big decisions.
What do the pros do?
I used to work in the royalty department of Bluewater Music. We wouldn’t send off a copyright registration until the day a song was commercially released. The last time I checked, it cost $40 to register a work, and it’s just financial suicide for a prolific writer or publisher to invest that much per song. I’ve had years when I’ve written 100 songs – that’s $4,000 just to register the copyrights! Even if you only register the songs you demo and pitch, it’s still not a good use of time and money.
What if somebody steals your song?
First of all, it’s hard to sue and prove plagiarism. You can’t copyright a title, idea or approach. Secondly, you have to prove the “thief” had access to your song. Thirdly, and most importantly, they’d have to make enough money off your song to make it worth your time to take legal action. Basically, it would have to be a hit. And that is VERY hard to do! The odds of that happening is so very slim that it’s a non-issue. Don’t let it stop you from pitching your songs or playing them out.
Do you protect your songs at all?
Yes. I leave a paper trail to prove the date of creation (which is a huge part of proving ownership). But, honestly, this is more to protect ME from someone suing me. I keep a paper calendar where I write my cowrite dates and cowriters. I write on a laptop, but I also copy the lyric into a series of notebooks with the date on each page. Additionally, I keep the Garageband file of each worktape. For songs which are part of a publishing deal, there’s an additional paper trail- assignments, Schedule A, etc.
You own the song the moment you write it down or record it. Registering your song with the copyright office just helps to prove it.
So, that’s me. I don’t copyright a song until it is commercially released (on more than just a small do-it-yourself indie project). But how you handle it is up to you. If it’s worth $40 a pop to help you feel comfortable sharing your top songs with the world, that’s cool. I hope that gives you some answers.
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Brent Baxter Music: http://www.brentbaxtermusic.com
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