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If I write a composition and want to share it with the world, what's the best way to establish that I am its creator? I remember reading a book where you could do something like write it down and mail it to yourself to do this, but I wonder if that's legit and/or how this should be handled in this electronic age?

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closed as off topic by Matthew Read Jul 20 '12 at 15:43

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This topic is very special to me and would like the community to give their thoughts. I'm itching to throw a bounty at this! –  Rene Marcelo Jul 18 '12 at 19:12
I know as a photographer, there is nothing I need do. As soon as I press the shutter, I am legally the copyright owner of that image. This is supported by metadata encoded by the camera and software I use, and I am of course, careful where I display my photos. As a musician, I don't need to worry about it, and as a composer I haven't gotten far enough to have to yet, so I'm not sure how it differs with compositions. I'm assuming you're referring to distributing sheet music for performance purposes, not a recording/video of the work being performed? –  Josh Fields Jul 18 '12 at 20:14
Yes, the posting it to yourself is a simple 'insurance' that you can take out should you ever need to 'prove' the date you created it. Normally a signed copy should also go to a prominent member of society such as a lawyer or doctor, who also keeps the envelope sealed with the postmark intact. –  Widor Jul 19 '12 at 16:15
Legal questions are off-topic, sorry -- see our FAQ. Feel free to ask any other questions you have that would be a better fit here. –  Matthew Read Jul 20 '12 at 15:43

3 Answers 3

In the USA and most of Europe, you own the copyright on any work you create automatically.

Things get a little bit more complicated when you create things as part of your job while working for an employer, but I assume that's not what you're asking about.

So the formal answer is, you don't have to do anything.

However, the question arises -- what if someone copies your work, and when challenged, they flat-out lie and claim they wrote it before you? It's your word against theirs. If that happens to you, you might wish you'd got some proof of having written it.

Sending yourself a copy in the mail is one old favourite. The idea is that you do not open the envelope until needed; the postmark is a proof of the date.

There are agencies that keep copies of your work and will give evidence to a court of the date when you lodged it. They charge money, of course.

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possibly register it with the US copy right office: http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-register.html

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Initially, join your local equivalent of the Performing Rights Society - and register all your songs with them.

Also, publishing to YouTube, Soundcloud, iTunes or other online distribution media will give you a date stamp.

Posting a CD to yourself (or even better, to a certified notary or lawyer) via recorded delivery can also be used as a good piece of evidence if necessary, but in the technological age we live in, it is less useful than it used to be. The world can always google for the first appearance of a work.

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