How to Copyright Your Home Recordings - dummies

By Jeff Strong

Before you set your home recordings loose and put your music out into the world, get it copyrighted. Getting a copyright on your music is easy and relatively inexpensive, so there’s no reason not to do it.

The easiest and cheapest way to register your copyright is online, through the Electronic Copyright Office (eCO). The online system is easy to use, allows you to upload your music files, and costs only $35.

If you still want to register by mail, you can. Just fill out an SR (sound recording) form and send it to the U.S. Copyright Office at the Library of Congress. You can access the form online or call the Copyright Office at 202-707-9100 and ask to have it mailed to you. Choose (or ask for) the Form SR with Instructions.

The current cost for filing the form is $85, but double-check this fee before you send in your form, because the fee has been known to go up. You can fill out one form for each CD, so the cost per song isn’t very high. Send your completed form, the fee, and a copy of your CD to the address listed on the form.

The form is pretty easy to fill out, but if you find that you have difficulty, you can call an information specialist to help you out. The number is 202-707-3000. Be prepared to wait on hold for a little while.

Several months after you complete your registration (whether by mail or online), you’ll receive a certificate in the mail, but you can consider your music copyrighted as soon as you submit the form. If you use snail mail and you’re especially protective of your music (paranoid?), you can wait until your check clears your bank.

At this point, you can be almost certain that your form is being processed. If you can’t sleep at night unless your music is copyrighted, it’s best to wait until your certificate arrives in the mail before you start selling or distributing your CD. (This is a good reason to file for your copyright early.)