Originally published by So’lano Music Group.
Perhaps the most common misconception when it comes to copyright is the idea that you have to sign up for it. Copyright is automatic; as soon as you write out your song, record it, or otherwise create a physical representation of it, it is protected from being copied by anyone but you.
What you need next is proof. If someone steals your song and claims it as their own, you can argue who wrote it first until you are both blue in the face. The argument will stop if you can produce solid documentation from a reliable third party that shows how long ago you wrote the song. Unless the other person can prove with equal or greater certainty that they had the song before that date, they will have a great deal of trouble arguing any further.
So where do you get that kind of proof? One way is to mail a copy of your song to yourself, and then store it, unopened, in a safe place. Some governments, such as the United Kingdom, suggest this method as there is no national registry available. However, if you try this in the US, don’t expect it to hold water if the issue ever goes to court. The United States requires you to register your song with the Library of Congress if you intend to argue ownership via the American legal system.
Canada stands half-way between the two. There is a Canadian national registry, but while your entire song is protected, only the title is stored by the government, so they have no record of what your song actually sounds like and no way to compare it to any other. Alternately, the Songwriters Association of Canada has set up the Canadian Song Vault, where you can register your song and have them store a copy of it in a private facility, thus providing a record of the name and creation date of your song, as well as a representation of what it sounds like.
In a perfect world, no one would steal, and simply saying “don’t copy my song” would be enough to protect it from jealous eyes. Unfortunately, the world is not perfect, and songwriters must take steps to protect their works from those who would attempt to claim them. On the upside, there are national laws and international conventions in place to make those steps easier to take.by