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Copyrighting a Published Song

Technically, any piece of artwork, song, book, etc is copyrighted as soon as it's created. The official copyright is good to have in order to protect your work from being stolen and put on sale by another person. It provides the legal basis for the collection of royalties due.

If you are signed with a publishing or record company, the companies will most likely handle the copyright for you – no paperwork for you – yay! If you're self-publishing your own work, then you're responsible for the process. Just go to and register online for a small fee. You can also file the form by mail, but it will be significantly more expensive.

The copyright issues one or more of five types of licenses for its use:

  • Mechanical License (recording the song)
  • Performance License (live performance OR playing recording in public)
  • Synchronization License (putting song on a TV commercial or in a movie)
  • Print License (distributing sheet music of the song)
  • Foreign Licenses (distributing outside the US)

More details on the different licenses in a future post.