Do I need a lawyer to file for copyright registration?

March 13, 2012

Dear Music Lawyer,

I've written a bunch of songs that I want to copyright. Do I need a lawyer to help me?


Dear Jerry,

No. You do not need a lawyer to file for copyright registration.

If filing by paper, application forms are available by calling the Copyright Office at (202) 707-3000 and requesting that they mail you the proper form – Form PA (performing arts works) and Form SR (sound recordings).

Alternatively, you can currently save $30 per application by filing electronically. Simply go to the U.S. Copyright Office website and click on “electronic Copyright Office” where you can create a user account to prepare and submit your copyright application.

Be prepared to fill in some basic information including the name of the work, when the work was created, who created the work, and who is claiming ownership of the copyrighted work. You will also need to have a copy of the work available to submit to the Copyright Office (known as a "deposit").

TIP: If the songs borrow lyrics from other works (e.g., you incorporate words from an Emily Dickenson poem), then you may wish to speak with a lawyer or contact the Copyright Office for instruction on any additional information that you should provide with your copyright application.

—Amy E. Mitchell is maintained by experienced Austin music lawyer Amy E. Mitchell. Please feel free to ask any music law related questions. You will be notified by email when your question has been selected for response, and the response will be posted on this site.

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