You’ve just had a moment of inspirational bliss and wrote the most amazing song lyrics. You’re ready to post them on Facebook, YouTube, and your blog, but aren’t quite sure what you should do to protect them. Fortunately, the following steps outline how songwriters can protect their lyrics before exposing them to the public.
Step 1: Determine If Your Lyrics Are Protectable Under Copyright Law
In order for lyrics to be protected under copyright law, they must be put in a fixed form. As such, if you simply sing or recite your lyrics in a public area, you do not hold the copyright to them. However, if you write the lyrics on paper or save them to your hard drive, you hold the copyright.
When you hold the copyright to your lyrics, you have certain exclusive rights, including the right to produce or reproduce the work. As such, you are the only person who can determine how your lyrics are used, where they can appear, and whether they can be performed. These exclusive rights are granted for a limited period of time. In Canada, these rights last for 50 years after the death of the author.
Step 2: Determine If You Should Register Your Lyrics
Although copyright protection in Canada is automatic the moment you put your lyrics in a fixed form, it is definitely a good idea to register your work for added protection. The reason being; it can be difficult to prove you are the original creator of the lyrics if you don’t have third-party proof.
To determine if you should register your lyrics, ask yourself these 3 questions:
- Are you the owner of the work?
- Do you want to earn money from these lyrics, either now or in the future?
- Do you plan to promote or expose your lyrics to anyone?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, then you should consider registering your work for added protection. If you answered no to all these questions and you don’t want to protect your lyrics should copyright infringement occur, then registration is not necessary.
Step 3: Find a Copyright Registry That’s Right for You
There are a number of copyright registration options available to protect your lyrics.
Canadian Government: You can register your copyright with them for $50 – $65 per song. While you will receive a registration certificate authenticating your registration, they do not keep a copy of your lyrics. As such, it’s important you keep an original copy of your work in a safe place.
Copyright Online: There are a number of online options available where you can register your song lyrics for as little as $4 a song. When you register your copyright online, look for the following criteria:
- Do they offer a registration certificate? This is an absolute must, as it provides protection and proof against infringement by guaranteeing the day and time you submitted your song. It’s best to register your work as soon as it is complete, to ensure you have the earliest time-stamp possible.
- Are you able to test their service before committing financially?
- Are there membership fees that impact the duration of your copyright registration?
- Must you renew the registration of your lyrics after a certain period of time, or does the registration last for the life of copyright?
- Is a copy of your work maintained online and, if so, can you access it at any time?
- Do courts of law recognize the validity of the information gathered on the certificate?
Regardless of which method of protection you choose for your lyrics, remember to first put them in a fixed form and keep them private until you make your decision.
It’s important to know that ‘poor man’s copyright’ (sending yourself your lyrics through registered mail) is not recognized by the courts as a form of copyright registration. As such, do not rely on this method if you want to protect copyright.
Note: The above information is meant as a general guide to further your copyright knowledge, and does not constitute legal advice. For questions about your specific work, you should consult a copyright lawyer in your country.
Shehan A. Jinapriya is President and Co-Founder of Copyright Creators, a service inspired by the shortfalls of “poor man’s copyright”. Copyright Creators protects copyright for life with no membership fees. Visit Copyright Creators today to receive 4 free registrations.