Copyriting Music

• Apr 15, 2024 - 01:58

If I include the copyright symbol along with my name and such at the bottom of my sheet music, does it really mean anything ? So, if I include this: "©️ Scott Day - 2024", does that alone protect me from people using my music, or changing it, etc? Or do I need to go through some sort of legal steps to actually protect my stuff?


First, emphatically: IANAL (I Am Not A Lawyer!!!) Don't take anything I say as gospel; consult an actual attorney to learn detailed and correct information. What I do know applies to US law and nowhere else.

That said, my understanding is that your artistic work (whether music, prose, poetry, visual arts, recordings, etc.) is protected under US copyright as soon as it is written down or recorded. Whether you have that statement on the work or not. If someone were to use your work without your permission, you would be able to sue them for it.

And that's the problem: you have to sue. You have to pay to fight it and, if the other party has deeper pockets than you, you could lose even though it really is your work.

Supposedly, you can register the work in several different ways? The Library of Congress records (or used to?) written works. There are commercial organizations that claim to register the work for a fee. It used to be that if you mailed yourself a certified letter containing the work and stored the letter, unopened, until it was required in court. Posting your work online in some forum that shows date/time should register the work equally.

These processes are to prove that you wrote the work on such-and-such a day. They don't mean that you'll automatically win in court and you'll still have to sue for it. I've been told lots of different and contradictory things about this sort of thing: that none of these methods are necessary, that none of them are foolproof, that one or another of them are required, even that none of them would have any effect on your claim. I don't know what to think.

So, if you're actually concerned, spend a few bucks and talk to a lawyer specializing in copyright law.

And yes, the word is "copyright". It is talking about the "right" to "copy" your work.

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