7 Agustus 2008

by Kathy Unruh

Have you ever wondered how to copyright songs?

If you are a songwriter, the chances are you have. There are many variables that can enter into registering a copyright which can seem a bit overwhelming at first. Hopefully this article will shed some light on the subject so you can understand the process a little better.

Below are some general questions people have asked me regarding how to copyright original songs and lyrics. The answers are based on my own knowledge and personal experience. As you read through them you just might gain some insight with regard to your own questions.


Is it reasonable to copyright the lyrics alone, and then later add the recordings – or is this not the best way to do it. Does that make it cost more money?


The lyrics to a song are legally copyrighted from the moment it’s written. Be sure to identify yourself as the original author by adding your name and date to the lyric page. Here is what the law states:

“Copyright protection subsists from the time the work is created in fixed form. The copyright in the work of authorship immediately becomes the property of the author who created the work. Only the author or those deriving their rights through the author can rightfully claim copyright.” ~Library of Congress

Registering song lyrics with the Library of Congress simply provides a legal witness as to who the author is.

Personally speaking, I would not bother to register the lyric of a song separately from the music as I feel it is a waste of time and money.


If other people wrote the music, do these works have to be sent separately, even though someone else is the creator/owner of the lyrics?


No, but credit should be given to the authors of the music on the form that’s submitted. A space is provided for this on the form (PA). The last song I registered had a small section of cello music that was created by another person. The lyrics and basic melody, guitar parts, etc. were created by myself and my husband. We used one form for everything.


If multiple works are registered at the same time, is it there a fee for each lyric? If several songs are part of a musical, is it a fee for each song, or for the musical?


Multiple works can be filed as a compilation for one fee. This is what I did with my first album. I wrote six songs and my friend wrote six songs. I created all the lead guitar and accompaniment parts for all the songs on the album, plus did some additional arranging for my friend’s songs. We registered the songs together under a joint band name, and we were able to retain individual copyrights for each song.

I hope the information in this article was helpful. The Library of Congress is an excellent free resource that will answer any additional questions you may have about copyrighting.

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