Music Copyright | Protect Your Music

Music Copyright | Protect Your Music

Aug 14, 2021

You enjoy writing and focusing on music and just want to concentrate on that. Great! But... It's worth taking a few steps today that can save you a lot of trouble later.

Once you record or write out your music, it is technically copy-written material. We just need to take extra steps to make sure we are protected.

Register Your Work

If you want to get published, even if you publish your own work, you will be sending copies to your managers, record companies, publishers, and other individuals. Are you sure you can trust those that get their hands on your work to respect your rights? Or will you discover your music being passed around as someone else's work, while you miss out on royalties?

I am an advocate of copyright registration as a means of protection.

When you register a work, you put on record verifiable proof of your copyright, which means you can prove your copyright should someone copy your songs and claim they wrote them first.

The cheapest and most convenient way to register is to send an entire album as a single "work" (aka a CD containing all your songs). Registering online can be a little bit cheaper but you will want to convert you music to MP3 format, otherwise uploading will take forever!

Mark Your Work with Copyright Notices

A copyright notice is a piece of text that stats the work is subject to copyright and the author's name. It is often followed by the phrase "all rights reserved" that means you withhold all rights to that work as your right under copyright law.

A copyright notice is not required by law. The work is still subject to copyright without one. So, why do we still want to use them? It's a deterrent. It makes it clear that your work is subject to copyright, and that you will enforce those rights.

The standard format for copyright notices has 5 elements:

  1. The word "copyright"
  2. The internationally recognized copyright symbol ©
  3. The year of publication
  4. The name of the copyright owner
  5. Optional statement of intent - Not required

  • For example: "Copyright © F. Last. All Rights Reserved"

The © or "C in a circle" is the copyright symbol that can be applied to most works.

Groups and Band Member Agreements

If you're writing songs with a group or a band, you need to be ready for the day you will begin earning royalties from your music, and be clear about what will happen if or when a band member leaves or if the group splits. The best way to handle this is to all agree what is fair and then put it in writing in some sort of formal agreement that everyone signs. This reduces the chance of hard feeling or legal issues should the band split for less than amicable reasons.

A few things to consider:

  1. If a band member leaves, do they forfeit all rights to the songs, and are the songs to remain sole property of the band?
  2. If the songs are written by one person, or a few specific writers, do they wish to retain all rights?
  3. If a band member leaves, do both he/she and the band both have claim to the song? - Most likely scenario
  4. How is each person's share determined? Is it on a song by song basis comparing each members contributions, or will the same formula be used for every song?
  5. Should everything be divided up equally regardless of who did what? - Example: 4 members each own 25% of all the songs, therefore each member received 25% of the proceeds and royalties
  6. If a member leaves, can they perform or profit from the music outside of working with the original band?


Protecting your music and your rights under copyright law are crucial yet often overlooked aspects of music - especially when you're just starting out. The long-term consequences of not properly registering your work and documenting agreements with a group or band can lead to serious headaches and even cost you rights to collect royalties in the future. Save yourself the trouble now and reap the benefits in the future!