If you write songs that you hope might be good enough to please a performer or a recording company, write your song on paper or sing or play it in some kind of recording – a tape, CD, or other saveable, transferable form. Yes, just as with all copyrights, the only thing you really have to do is get it saved with your name on it and the date on which you made it permanent. In the case of written manuscripts or CDs, an easy trick is to mail the paper to yourself by registered mail at the United States Post Office. When you receive it, don’t open the envelope. Because it is official date-stamped and unopened, this copy of your song will always prove that you wrote it on or before the date recorded by the Post Office.
After acquiring the informal copyright provided by mailing the song to yourself, getting an official copyright will give you additional reassurance of having made a public record of your claim to be the owner of the song and recordings of the song. Once you have done this, you may file a federal lawsuit against anyone who tries to steal your property, and you will be eligible to receive money for damages and fees if you win the copyright lawsuit. It’s in the courtroom that the original mailed document and recording will help you prove your ownership beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Look up the Copyright Office on the Internet, download the application and fill it out, following the directions supplied by the website. Mail it along with a recorded copy of the song and/or a written manuscript, as well as the filing fee which has recently increased to $65. Check the website for the current charges.
Send the entire package to:
Library of Congress
101 Independence Avenue SE
Washington, DC 20559
Because it may take six or more months for the Copyright Office to process your work, the step of mailing the song to yourself may help avoid any legal questions about exactly when you are claiming to have written the song. Also, it may well be a good idea to combine applications if you have more than one song to copyright. When sending your application, try to send both written and recorded forms of the song because the copyright will include both for one filing fee. It is also possible to register a collection of songs in written and/or recorded form at the same time with Forms PA or SR from the Copyright Office. Again, you will pay only one filing fee.
Electronic filing has also been made available by the Copyright Office. Using this method will probably save a portion of the filing fee, at least for a first-time application. See the directions on the website for more information, as well as details about filing as a group, filing a longer composition and many other options that may or may not apply to you.