Songwriting’s Dark Side


Copyright From 1977--The Old Days


I’m thinking about the day I have ahead of me.  I will be at this computer, filling out copyright forms for most of the day.  I suppose by writing this blog I’m stalling, but I have a few thoughts on the process I’d like to share.

It really isn’t hard a hard process, but it is tedious and exacting.  Songwriting‘s dark side is that if the writer is good, but also, good and naive, people will try to steal their songs.  I know a few things: I write good songs, I don’t know enough about copyright law, and I need to protect my work.

I also know that I have resources.  I have a friend who is a lawyer who works in music law.  He’s pricey by my standards, but worthwhile to have on board.  I also know that both the U. S. Copyright Office and Broadcast Music, Inc. have people who I can call who will answer my questions.

The problem with all my questions is that I don’t know enough to know what I don’t know, so finding questions to ask is the hard task.  However, the copyrighting process is tedious, but worthwhile.

The truth is that there really is a dark side to our songwriting.  People with take a songwriter’s  songs in a heartbeat–even if they think that they are not stealing.  Sometimes it’s called sharing.  Sometimes it’s as simple as a download or a ripped CD, but these actions are no different from a multi-billion dollar corporation manipulating songwriters out of our publishing rights.  It’s all stealing.

The process of copyrighting is a little scary, at first.  When I began, I felt that if I made just one little mistake, I’d have the entire weight of the Federal Government coming down on me.  While that is not true, it is true that I need to be as accurate as I can, because if I copyright a song, and the lyrics are nor correct, then I have to pay all over again to copyright it correctly.

At this writing it costs $45.00 to copyright a song by mail, and $35.00 to copyright one electronically.  If I file “Title of Work Being Registered” as an umbrella title, and then file one “Contents Title” for each song under that, I can file as many songs as I wish for $35.00, which is a much better deal.

Today I am filing somewhere over 40 songs.

It isn’t just listing the titles.  I will also need to pay for the filing after they are listed, and then I will need to download an MP3 of the song with a PDF of the song lyrics.  It is exacting work, but it is work worth doing.

The last stage of my process will be to upload my songs to my MySpace account for all the world to hear.  I have been advised to do this because registration of a claim takes so long, that it is good to have a “fixed” record of the songs on a dated search engine.  That way there will be timely proof of my ownership.  My lawyer friend tells me that this will be especially important with the songs I am working on for the soundtrack.  Ever onward!


4 thoughts on “Songwriting’s Dark Side

  1. Back when I wrote poems. I’d throw them in an envelope and mail them to myself. The envelope was postmarked with a date. All those poems are still unopened in their envelopes. 🙂 Waiting for what, I don’t know.

    Today, I”d probably put a packing list on the outside of the envelope. Could you do that with CDs??

  2. Details.
    Confusing at times, and definitely annoying. Of course, back in the dark ages of college, not one prof. ever even mentioned any of the details of publishing, or showing one’s artwork, or marketing one’s self, or protecting one’s self. Perhaps these subjects are incorporated now? I am viewing these details as part of what a serious, mature, intelligent and forward-thinking artist does. Remind me I said this. Often.

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