Monday, January 2, 2012


Let's say you're interested in publishing your original songs. Some websites are overwhelming, but the U.S. Copyright Office is pretty easy to follow except for navigation from help screens back to an application in process. So the starter hint is to try to know definitions before you start!

1. As soon as your write something "in tangible form" (by definition that means a PRINTOUT is a good idea --"touch-able") it is "copyrighted." INFORMATION:
2. Even though your work is protected as soon as it's in a tangible form including in personal letters or church newsletters, you might want to further protect it by adding a DATE after the word 'copyright' or its symbol to your tangible-form work like this:
©2012 My Name
The year is needed because the year shows when protection begins -- they keep changing the law, but it's a lot of years. Still, it's useful to show the start date:)

3. Technically, your work is copyright-protected. And the U.S. has an agreement with most countries to honor that protection. But it is more "safe" to officially register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office -- and that's both easy and inexpensive. You might not know -- it's within the 'depths' of the govt copyright office website! --
It costs only $ 35 to copyright ("register") an entire book....
even if there's hundreds of files, if you have a file per chapter... You just create a PDF-format file for each of your documents (.DOC or whatever you edit with) files. Just check the internet -- there are some really good free download programs that will enable you to "print to PDF file."

4. You don't have to wait until your work is in a final form --
you just give your draft work a different title. For example,
you could protect your drafts by registering the Book Title as 'Collection of Whispers 2011"
You just need to separate published works (such as those in bulletins) from unpublished ones (such as those still only in your office) because one of the application questions asks if the work has been published, so you need a single answer:)

5. If you decide you want to check this out,
a. Go to
b. Select the eCO program (Electronic Copyright Office) by clicking on the blue circle button (icon) in the right column.
c. When the info screen comes up, click on the same style eCO blue button to "Login."
d. When a "Security ... Privacy:..." screen comes up, read it and click on the button that says "Continue to eCO." HINT: On slow dial-up connections, hit the Stop button X and then "Reload" to get the screen to come up faster if it seems 'stopped' in progress 3/4 of the way through.
e. The first time you use the program, look right below the Login button on the left.
The bottom line says "If you are a new user, click here to register." BEFORE YOU DO SO --
YOU MUST TURN OFF YOUR POP-UP BLOCKER to register OR to upload files (a future blog will provide easy upload hints).

1. You'll need to use an electronic check (Payment screen's TOP section) or scroll down the page (NOT clearly mentioned on the site) to enter credit card or debit card to pay the fee. You might want to use a private computer, not one at the local library or local Free Wi-Fi place, to do your registration. You do NOT need fast internet to register... it's slower but not sluggish. AND you do not need to upload any files when you first open a "case" for your work's title. (Sample title for multiple songs registered together = "Song Collection #1).
2. You do NOT need fast internet to upload text files including even 12-page piano scores.
3. On the other hand... good luck trying using a dial-up internet connection to upload an MP3 audio version of your music. My average is 17 minutes per song! Once you've registered your case, you are asked for a password (you can then later change), but not your credit card info... Borrow a computer with fast connection or go to a WiFi place to upload huge files.
4. The Government site warns you that there is a 60-minute limit for uploads. Since there's no limit on how many files you can upload for a song (etc), you may want to divide up the files rather then sending them all in one batch.

THIS IS HOW I DIVIDE MY UPLOADS.... of course there's no "right" way -- this is just easy, I've found:
1. I send each individual song in one upload:
a. Audio file in .MP3 format (Copyright office required format for audio files);
b. Lyrics file in PDF format (required format).
c. A PDF file of the piano track's Music Sheet (using the OTEN music notation method described at, and
d. A PDF file of the Music SCORE (using GarageBand's Print-to-PDF feature for the SCORE for EACH important track.
e. Depending on the song, I'll also register special DRUMTRACK files in .MP3 format,
SOUNDTRACK files in .MP3 format, and indivudual instruments' SCORE files (PDF).

The government program is really easy to follow; your work has a service request registration number as soon as you create your account.
--- You get a case number (SR 1-xxxxxxx) for your title.
--- The copyright date will be when you finish uploading all files (and pay the $35 bucks:)
--- You get the paper copy in the mail for about 5 months. In fact, in January 2012, the site reports a mere 3-month turnaround time.

If you use public domain songs like old hymns within your music, you can find a lot of information at

A Joyous NEW YEAR with 12 more months of music to you and yours!
©2012 DianaDee Osborne