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What is copyright?

The United States copyright law provides legal protection for creators of artistic works. The law gives music creators six exclusive rights, making it illegal for others to use their music without permission. The six rights cover each of the ways music is used. If you write a song, only you can record the song the first time, and you have the exclusive right to copy; perform in public; rearrange; and play a recording of your song on the radio, television, or web.

How do I copyright my original music?

To gain all of the protections of the United States copyright law, you need to register your music with the United States Copyright Office. Registration is not required for copyright ownership because music is automatically copyrighted the moment you put it in a tangible medium, like on paper or on audio recording. All you have to do is write your original song down on paper, or record it, and you own the copyright. However, to take advantage of U.S. copyright law you need to register your music, which is required before you can file a copyright infringement lawsuit or collect certain damages.

What is copyright registration?

A common misconception is that you copyright your music with the United States Copyright Office. The fact is that your music is automatically copyrighted the moment you write it down or record it on a tangible medium. What the Copyright Office provides is not the copyright itself, but a Certificate of Registration of your copyright. That is a formal document issued by the Copyright Office that certifies you registered your music with the Copyright Office and they have a record of your registration on file at the Library of Congress.

Why should I register my copyright?

Registration of music with the United States Copyright Office establishes your claim to exclusive ownership of the music in the United States. When you register, you gain "prima facie" evidence that you were the first to create the work. "Prima facie" (pree·muh fay·shee·ee) is a legal term, which means anyone claiming ownership must prove the music is not yours. If you are serious about protecting your intellectual property and protecting the business of your music, we recommend you make it official, establish your prima facie evidence, and register your music with the U.S. Copyright Office. Learn more about prima facie evidence in our Help Center

What do I get?

You get an official Certificate of Registration from the United States Copyright Office, mailed to the address you provide at sign up. Your work is also entered into the United States Copyright Office's searchable Public Catalog at copyright.gov.

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