Thursday, September 1, 2011

Copyright Package Description (updated 1/2/2012)

An amusing Viewpoints newspaper article here on East Coast of the U.S. began with these words after the Virginia earthquake on Tuesday (that never happens in Va!), horrendous thunderstorm on Thursday, Hurricane Irene on Saturday, and resulting floods ---- "Now that we've had the Dress Rehearsal for the Apocalypse...."

Perhaps now we all might be writing the "songs in our heads" a little faster! This is the first of several blogs with hints on how to make preparation for your copyright package a lot (LOT) easier, based on my trials and exciting discoveries of how to streamline the organization.

To begin: You probably know that you can copyright any song just by writing
©2012 Your Name
with your song title. If it makes you feel better, you can add "All Rights Reserved." Of course, in real life, we know that the happier results tend to go to whoever has the biggest lawyer, and we're not discussing seatbelt size.

Did you know that it is REALLY inexpensive AND pretty easy to officially copyright your song with the U.S. Government Copyright Office?
Better yet, did you know that you can copyright 50 songs for the same cost as a single song?

1. The government copyright office (just google that phrase) has set up a rather use-friendly site for filling out the application with their eCO system (see 1/2/2012 blog for more details). The hardest part for authors is trying to figure out exactly what categories fit what you're copyrighting. For musicians it's easy: SOUND RECORDING.
If it is all original material, you still want to select "Music Arrangement" as well as music, lyrics, text, editing, and don't forget audio files.
"Music" = the notes; audio files are the recordings of those notes. Music arrangement is your unique adaptation, especially important if you've included any part of a Public Domain song, such as an old hymn. (Check out for more information on these.)

2. To prepare your copyright package, you will need (a) PDF files for paper versions of your song -- lyrics and scores, OR you can use a music notation method such as the OTEN method described as a resource at; and (b) MP3 files for the audio recordings. That's it! A future blog will give hints on easy organization. IMPT -- Your audio recordings do NOT have to be mastered and all gorgeously ready for CD distribution. You need only enough music to convey your creative concept. Don't delay just to get a great sound. The copyright office doesn't care.

3. You also do NOT have to wait until you've filled an album before preparing a copyright package. See #4 for the easy organization method that avoids this need. Later you or your representatives can do a collective album package if you want. These hints are designed more for indie musician-writers like myself who aren't waiting "to be signed".

4. I define "package" as a set of more than one song. I use a single "collective" name for every copyright package. My example: I have a dozen or so albums. As I write a new song, I assign it to the album name that best fits its theme, such as Amazing Hope 'n' Humor, or "Amazing Peace 'n' Passion." BUT for the COPYRIGHT package, I use a simple 2-step naming method:

(a) The title of my work for every package is
(b) In the space, I put the year and the package letter.

EXAMPLES: My first package was simply "2006 through 2009".
Then in 2010 I prepared and submitted three packages. The last of those is
During 2011 I copyrighted packages in 3-month groups, entitled
for January-March, and so on through 2011-G for Oct-Dec.
I continued the alphabet because it's easier in file folder naming... more on that another day.
Much joy to you in the eager anticipation of formally copyrighting your songs!
©2011 DianaDee Osborne