In Part 1 of this article, I explained a whole bunch of preliminary matters related to copyright registration for your band’s songs or albums. Those preliminary matters are pretty important stuff. If you haven’t read Part 1, you definitely should start there and then come back here to get started.
Now let’s jump right into registering our copyrights.
You should take advantage of online registration for several reasons. First, it’s convenient. You don’t have to mail anything and you can simply upload your music, type in your info, pay by credit card and be done. Second, there is a reduced filing fee, which right now is $35.
1) Go to the Copyright Office’s website at www.copyright.gov/eco/.
2) You’ll see a brief description of the “eCO Online System.” Below that, there’s a link that says “Login to eCo.” Click the “Electronic Copyright Office” icon next to that.
3) Click the “Continue to eCO” button.
4) At this point you’re asked for login information. If you haven’t registered…well, register. If you already have an account, log on.
5) You now arrive at your Open Cases screen.
Open a New Case
1) On the left side menu, under the heading “Copyright Services” click “Register a New Claim.” On the next screen, click the gray box that says “Start Registration.”
2) Let’s start by registering the Sound Recording. So, in the “Type of Work” dropdown list, select Sound Recording. At the top, click the “Next” button.
3) Now, here’s where we need to start being smart so we save ourselves all that money I talked about. Because we’re registering a whole album, we can register all of the songs on that album at once rather than doing each song individually.
4) You see an empty list of works. Let’s start by adding the album itself. So, click the “New” button. In the “Title Type” dropdown list, select “Title of Work Being Registered.” In the box below it, type the album title. If it’s a demo, an EP, whatever…give it a title. Even if it’s “Demo EP.” Now click the gray “Save” button above. You are returned to the list of works and you should see the album title.
5) Now we need to list the songs on the album. Click the gray “New” button again. The songs on the album are the contents of the album, right? So, in the “Title Type” dropdown list, select “Contents Title.” In the box below it, type the name of the first song on the album. Click “Save.” You are now returned to the works list and you should have the album title and the first song.
6) Repeat step 5 for each song on the album. When you’ve finished, click the “Next” button on the works screen.
7) The next screen asks if the work has been published. If you’ve sold the CD, posted the songs on Myspace, Sonicbids, or otherwise made the recordings public (I mean THESE recordings. Not another recording of the same song.) you MUST say yes. Answering incorrectly is not going to help you. Tell the truth. If you select yes, you will be asked for some extra information. “Year of Completion” means when the recording was finished. “Date of First Publication” means when you sold it, put it online, etc. (It does not mean when you first played it at a gig.) If you sold a CD at a gig, put down the date you did that. “Nation of First Publication” is where you published it. If you’re reading this, my guess is you’re going to select United States. You most likely want to ignore the other boxes, so click “Next.”
8) We’re now at the point where you need to name the authors of the work. “Authors” is a legal term in the copyright field. In this case, it means who wrote the song. If you and your 3 bandmates sat in a room and jammed, mixing and matching and tweaking until you came up with a song, you’re all authors. And in our example, since we’re talking about who played on the recording, all of the players are “authors.” Click “Add Me” to add yourself and “New” to add the other people. For each one, put in name, year of birth, citizenship, domicile (what country you permanently live in). You should also select “no” for the “work made for hire” question. The only way this is “yes” is if you commissioned someone to write with you, or paid a studio musician. If you did pay a studio musician and they signed a release, put them as an author and choose “yes.” Click “Save.”
9) Now specify the person’s contribution. For someone who played on the recording, check “Sound Recording” and “Performance.” Click “Save.” Repeat steps 8 and 9 until you have all of the people who played on the recording listed. Then click “Next” to move on.
10) You’re now asked for the “Claimants.” The Claimant is the person (or people) who will get ownership of the registered copyright. If you did not specify anyone as contributing a “work for hire” in the previous step, you should add all of the people from steps 8 & 9 to this list. The only scenarios where this list will differ from the authors list is if a) someone’s contribution was a work for hire (in which case you leave him off) or b) the authors have already completed a copyright assignment where someone gave away or sold their rights. In those cases, the claimants would be the ones who were not contributing works for hire, or in the case of (b) the ones who received the assignment. If none of this sounds familiar, your claimants will almost certainly match your authors. Once you have all these entered, click “Next.”
11) This step is about limiting your claim. You only need to fill this out if you sampled from an earlier work, took something from the public domain like “When The Saints Go Marching In” or based your song on a song that has otherwise already been registered. Most likely you will want to skip this step by clicking “Next.” But again, make sure you answer this question truthfully (as with all portions). If you don’t you could end up with a worthless registration.
12) The next three steps are easy (FINALLY!!!). In “Rights & Permissions” put in the name of the person that should be contacted if people want to use the song in a movie, want to cover the song, etc. Then enter the person you want the Copyright Office to contact about this registration. That’s the correspondent. Finally, put in the name and address you want the official copyright certificate sent to. If you’re doing the legwork here, it’s very likely that all 3 steps will be you. Easy, huh?
13) Next is the screen asking about special handling. You almost certainly will not want to check any of those boxes. If any of them sound like they might apply, you probably have a lawyer involved already and you should get their opinion. Otherwise, skip this step and click “Next.”
14) Now you’ve reached the Certification page. This is where you state that you’ve provided truthful information. It’s important that you have done so. Assuming you have, type your name, check the box and hit “Next.”
15) DISABLE YOUR POP-UP BLOCKER BEFORE YOU DO THIS STEP – You’ve now finished entering all the info you need. Review it, make any necessary corrections and click “Add to Cart.” (This part seems to be slow, so just wait til it goes to the next screen.) If you read the parts above and you don’t need to fill out a separate Work of Performing Arts registration, checkout and pay your money.
16) Once you submit your payment, a pop-up window will appear asking you to upload your songs. Choose your MP3 files from your hard drive, submit them, and that’s it!
Congratulations! You’ll be hearing from the Copyright Office.
If you do need to do a separate Work of Performing Arts registration, go on to Part 3.
Disclaimer: It’s very important that you do this right. While I’ve attempted to help you through the copyright registration process, this is not legal advice. If you have ANY questions, you need to contact a lawyer and get them to help you complete the process properly.