Do you copyright your songs before showing it to producers?

I’ve been working on an EP the past year and have 5 songs I feel are solid and ready to be recorded, and then released under my own artist name (will be my first release).

I’ve only composed it with voice and guitar, production is my weak point, so my plan is to record them as solid demos with just guitar and vocals and show them to a few producers near me.

I’d probably show it to about 4-5 producers, I don’t really know them, just people near me, or ones that have been recommended through acquaintances, etc.

Just wondering how many on here register their songs before showing them to producers or shopping them around to artists / etc.

(I've read it's also much better to copyright songs individually, vs as a group, as it's much more beneficial in case it does every become a legal issue.

I also think I have to copyright them again, once I'll do the official release? Or is that not the case, if the lyrics/melody haven't really changed?)


  • My understanding is that the 'right' part of copyright exists as soon as you create a work. But in the event of any legal dispute what is needed is evidence. In that regard registering your songs provides strong evidence for your claim. There are other ways to create evidence as well, such as keeping a witnessed copy with a lawyer, or mailing them to yourself via some form of certified mail then leaving them unopened. Even having them published on a site on the internet like this one is some form of evidence, though perhaps not as strong.

    I don't have any info on registering one vs a group I'm afraid.

    I don't believe there is a need to re-register works for copyright if the music/lyric hasn't changed, but only been re-recorded. Performing Rights organisations such as ASCAP and PRO do register individual recordings in order to track licensing fees etc however.

    At a practical level, I would suggest you find out if there is any interest in your work from publishers before outlaying too much money registering songs and/or paying for production mixes. Many try, few succeed.

    But my opinion is not legal advice! When in doubt ask a lawyer!

  • It's easy to get paranoid about people stealing your songs. It can paralyze you and stop you moving forward. You might start by sharing a couple of them here using a private link at SoundCloud. That way nobody can access them without you providing them the link and, if you're still worried about this kind of thing, you can take them down afterwards.

    As for copyright, it probably depends what you are worried about.

    Since you own the copyright as soon as you create the work, somebody who copies your work and then tries to claim it as theirs and stop you publishing it or profiting from it is not going to be able to do that, so long as you have proof of when you created it, such as some of the things RDM described above. At least that's how it seems to me.

    If you want to sue for damages, then you probably need to have copyright. In addition, having copyright registration entitles you to demand statutory damages. This means that you don't have to prove some amount of lost revenue due to the infingement, which would be hard and probably not worth the cost of suing, but instead can be entitled to a fixed amount, which can be substantial.

    I don't know why it would be more beneficial to register the songs individually, but then I'm not really an expert and would be interested to hear why this would be the case. Individual registration would certainly be a lot more expensive than registering up to 10 songs as a "group of unpublished works" for the same fee.

  • Thanks guys for the feedback.

    I want to register because I already lost my life savings of $100k+ and a few years of work due to an IP issue (outside of music). I'm not letting that happen again. I know nobody will steal my work, but once again, I'm not opening it up to chance, and I want to do it by the book this time.

    The thing I'm trying to figure out right now is whether I need to register each unpublished work individually for max protection, as well as the final master sound recording. I believe so, just not sure if that is the case. (If you register in group of 10, you are limited to one litigation, so someone can steal 9 out of 10 of your songs, and you can only get damages once. One again... I know no one will probably steal my songs. But I want to just figure this out up front and do it right the first time, instead of kicking myself in the ass in the future in case something does happen. I already lost everything by not paying attention to detail, I'm not going to let life teach me that lesson again.)

  • May I ask what the source is for the group registration info? It seems strange that you can only litigate once for damages. If a crime has been committed multiple times, then usually you could expect multiple litigations. I have no info on this score, but it feels odd.

  • Owen, I guess the OP is maybe basing his assumption on the fact that if you register a group of works, they are combined into one registration. Statutory damages might then only apply to the infringement of that one registration. There is a logic to that, I suppose, but I don't know if it's the case.

    Years ago I was contacted out of the blue by a writer who told me that someone was trying to hire him to ghost write or perhaps more accurately "ghost edit" a book. The client had provided him with the text she wanted him to "tweak," and it consisted entirely of a book I had published. She had forgotten to remove the copyright information. This is what prompted me to investigate the advantages of copyright registration. Without registration I would have had to prove actual financial loss caused by the infringement, which, based on the paltry sales of the book, would have maybe amounted to the price of a cup of coffee. With registration, I could demand statutory damages of $100,000. The irony was that this unscrupulous person was a lawyer!

  • That's really interesting! And a level of detail that I'm not familiar with. Thanks for the extra info

  • ElvisNash
    ElvisNash Calif
    edited March 30

    Naw I stopped doing that in 1990 , its covered by doing it , I doubt a hit writer are stealing any songs

    ok somebody steals your song , Have you got 50k to prove it in court

    I fell for that sending the government 40 bucks to put in a building

    Thats what probably paid for the building lol

    What I read hit writers have insurance on they're songs if someone steals it

  • ClausH
    edited July 24

    'Covered by doing it" is technically true, yet it will mean absolutely nothing to a lawyer unless you have some kind of physical evidence of the song's creation.

    As for " writers stealing songs", I urge you to read the full story of the song "The Lion Sleeps Tonight", which started in South Africa, written and performed on a 78 by Solomon Linda, a local hit until it got to the US. There hit-songwriter George P. Weiss altered the song and copyrighted it, reaping wealth as the song got covered again and again.

    Solomon Linda could neither read nor write, so he got screwed from the start, first from the company that cut the 78, and then in New York. Despite some well-meaning efforts by Pete Seeger and others, he wound up with a pittance even as the song travelled the world earning millions.

    I feel if a song is worth the effort to show or play to anyone but yourself, the first thing you do is copyright it for real. Unlike Solomon, you can read and write, and you have the possibility of getting a solid copyright for very little money.

    If you don't, all it takes is for someone to hear one imaginative riff, use it themselves and be off to the races. Meahwnile you stand there, possibly with a "Thank You."


  • ElvisNash
    ElvisNash Calif
    edited July 26

    The Lion Sleeps Tonight. I saw that show , BIG BIG BIG money and Lawyers , Sweet honest Disney was invloved . Mickey would have robbed them blind , which I think they did to a extent . I forgot what that family got in the end

    I'm not paying the Goverment 40 dollars to put in a building that the people sending 40 dollars to build . I forget publishers do all that on a hit whatever , they own part of I guess , I forget all that stuff . Maybe Mickey Mouse has a say

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