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How to Get your Lyrics Copyrighted?

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Lokesh Pal

December 6, 2023

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How to Get your Lyrics Copyrighted?

Do you know how to get your lyrics copyrighted? In the realm of music and songwriting, lyrics represent a unique blend of emotion, narrative, and personal expression.

They can capture moments, tell stories, or evoke profound feelings in listeners. As a result, safeguarding these precious creations is of utmost importance to songwriters.

Copyrighting your lyrics provides legal protection against unauthorised use and potential infringements, ensuring that your creative voice remains truly yours.

This introduction will guide you through the essentials of how to get your lyrics copyrighted, giving you the confidence to share your songs with the world while ensuring they remain protected.

How to Copyright a Song Online?

How to Copyright a Song Online

Copyrighting a song ensures that your musical creations are legally protected against unauthorised use.

While in many jurisdictions a work is automatically copyrighted upon creation, registering it provides concrete evidence of copyright ownership.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to copyright a song online, primarily focusing on the U.S. system:

  1. Understand the Basics:
    • Original Creation: Only original works can be copyrighted. This means your song must be your creation and not derived from another source without permission.
    • Tangible Form: Before copyrighting, ensure that your song is in a tangible form – either recorded or written down.
  2. Prepare Your Materials:
    • Have a digital copy of your song ready, either as a recording (MP3, WAV, etc.) or as a written document (PDF of lyrics or sheet music).
  3. Visit the U.S. Copyright Office Website:
  4. Create an Account:
    • Click on the “Log in to the Electronic Copyright Office (eCO) System” and create an account if you don’t have one.
  5. Start a New Claim:
    • Once logged in, click on “Register a New Claim” and follow the instructions.
  6. Choose Type of Work:
    • For songs, you’ll typically choose “Work of the Performing Arts”.
  7. Provide Information:
    • Fill in all the required details about the song, including title, date of creation, and author details. If you’re registering the recording and the lyrics together, you can mention both elements.
  8. Pay the Fee:
    • There’s a fee associated with registering a copyright. This can vary based on a few factors, but as of my last update in 2021, it’s typically around $35-$55 for online registrations.
  9. Upload Your Song:
    • Once you’ve paid, you’ll be prompted to upload a copy of your song. This serves as the deposit copy required by the Copyright Office.
  10. Confirmation and Waiting:
  • After submitting, you’ll receive a confirmation. The Copyright Office will then review your submission, which can take several months. Once approved, you’ll receive a certificate of registration.

How to Get your Lyrics Copyrighted?

India, like many countries, automatically grants copyright protection to original works upon their creation.

However, to strengthen your legal position in case of disputes, it’s recommended to register your work with the Copyright Office of India. Here’s a step-by-step guide to get your lyrics copyrighted in India:

  1. Prepare Your Lyrics:
    • Ensure your lyrics are original and in a tangible form, either written down or recorded.
  2. Visit the Copyright Office of India’s Website:
  3. Download the Application Form:
    • Under the “Download Form” section, choose the appropriate form. For lyrics, you’ll want “Form IV” (Application for Registration of Copyright).
  4. Fill Out the Form:
    • Complete the form with all the required details, including the title of the work, details about the author, year and country of first publication (if applicable), and more.
  5. Attach a Copy of the Lyrics:
    • You’ll need to provide a copy of your lyrics. This can be a typed document or hand-written, but it should be legible.
  6. Payment of Fees:
    • A fee is associated with copyright registration. The fee can vary based on the nature of the work. Check the fee details on the website or form instructions.
  7. Submission of Application:
    • Submit the completed form, along with the necessary attachments and fee, to the Copyright Office. This can be done by post or by hand. The address is generally mentioned on the form or the website.
  8. Diary Number
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    :
    • After submitting your application, you will be issued a diary number. Keep this safe as it’s essential for tracking the status of your application.
  9. Wait for Objections:
    • After receiving your application, the Copyright Office will wait for a 30-day period to see if anyone raises any objections to your copyright registration.
  10. Registration:
  • If there are no objections within the 30 days, or if any objections are resolved in your favor, your copyright will be registered. You will receive a registration certificate.
  1. Duration:
  • Copyright protection for lyrics (literary works) in India lasts for the lifetime of the author plus 60 years.

It’s essential to understand that registration is a legal formality intended to make a public record of the copyright.

While it’s beneficial, copyright exists from the moment the work is created.

Always consider consulting with an intellectual property lawyer or expert in India to navigate the intricacies and ensure you protect your rights thoroughly.

Can We Use Copyrighted Lyrics?

Using copyrighted lyrics without permission can lead to legal complications, as those lyrics are the intellectual property of the original creator or the entity to which the rights have been assigned.

However, there are circumstances under which copyrighted lyrics can be used:

  1. Obtain a License:
    • The most straightforward way to use copyrighted lyrics is to get a license from the copyright holder.
    • This usually involves paying a fee and may come with specific terms and conditions regarding how you can use the lyrics.
  2. Fair Use:
    • In some jurisdictions, the concept of “fair use” allows for limited use of copyrighted material without needing permission.
    • Common fair use scenarios include criticism, commentary, news reporting, educational use, and research.
    • However, fair use is a complex doctrine and is subject to interpretation. It’s not a guaranteed protection against copyright claims.
  3. Public Domain:
    • Lyrics that are in the public domain are no longer under copyright protection and can be used without obtaining a license.
    • Lyrics typically enter the public domain because the copyright has expired.
    • However, the duration of copyright varies by country, so always check the local regulations.
  4. Creative Commons and Other Licenses:
    • Some artists may choose to release their lyrics under a Creative Commons license or a similar open license, which can grant certain permissions for the use of the work. It’s crucial to read the terms of these licenses carefully, as they often come with specific conditions.
  5. Parody and Satire:
    • Some countries have exceptions for the creation of parodies or satirical renditions of copyrighted works.
    • However, the definition and legal protection for parodies vary widely, so it’s important to be aware of local laws.
  6. Cover Songs:
    • If you’re planning to perform or record a cover of a song, you’ll typically need a mechanical license for the recording and a separate performance license if you plan to perform it publicly. However, the lyrics themselves cannot be altered without permission.

Important Considerations:

  • Always Seek Permission: It’s always best to seek permission when in doubt. Using copyrighted lyrics without authorisation can result in legal actions, fines, and potential damage to your reputation.
  • Consult with a Legal Expert: Copyright laws and their intricacies vary by country. If you’re considering using copyrighted lyrics, consult with a legal expert familiar with intellectual property rights in your jurisdiction.

In summary, while there are specific scenarios under which you can use copyrighted lyrics, always proceed with caution and respect the rights of the original creators.

Conclusion

Securing the copyright for your lyrics is a crucial step in the journey of every songwriter.

Not only does it provide legal protection against unauthorised reproductions and potential infringements, but it also solidifies your claim to your creative endeavors.

In a world where information and content can be shared globally in an instant, safeguarding one’s intellectual property becomes even more paramount.

By understanding the nuances of the copyrighting process, be it in the U.S., India, or any other jurisdiction, creators can confidently share their artistic expressions with the world, knowing they have taken the necessary precautions to protect their work.

Always remember, your lyrics are a unique testament to your creativity, and they deserve to be shielded and celebrated.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do lyrics automatically get copyrighted once they are written?

Yes, in most jurisdictions, lyrics are automatically copyrighted once they are created and fixed in a tangible form, such as written down or recorded.

However, registering the copyright with the appropriate office or agency provides stronger legal protection and is advisable in case of disputes.

Do I need to register my lyrics with the Copyright Office to have protection?

No, you don’t need to register your lyrics to have copyright protection.

However, registering offers additional legal benefits, such as the ability to sue for statutory damages and attorney’s fees in the event of infringement.

How long does copyright protection last for lyrics?

The duration of copyright protection varies by country. In the U.S., for works created after January 1, 1978, the copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years.

In India, it’s the life of the author plus 60 years. Always check the specific regulations for your jurisdiction.

Can I copyright multiple lyrics under one registration?

Yes, in many jurisdictions, you can register a collection of lyrics under one application, provided they are owned by the same individual or entity.
This is often termed as a “collective work” or “volume registration.”

However, the specifics can vary, so it’s important to check the guidelines of the respective copyright office.

If I change or add to my lyrics after copyrighting, are the new changes protected?

Any significant changes or additions to your lyrics would be considered derivative works.

To ensure protection for these new changes, you would need to file a new copyright registration for the derivative work.

Minor changes might not necessitate a new registration, but if in doubt, consult with a legal expert.

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