I have composed a piano piece that I am going to performe at my next concert in a small venue. I thought about selling my score to the audience after the performance, for a few pounds. I don't do it for getting rich, just for personal satisfaction.

I have produced the score in a professional looking format. However I am not sure how to proceed in terms of copyright. Should I register it somewhere? Is it worth it? I don't care too much about making money out of it. However I would like to avoid the situation of someone playing it and attributing it to themselves.

I am based in the uk.

Let me know :) Thank you

  • 3
    Upvoted, but I don't think this is on-topic here. I suggested that this be moved to Law.SE, as per the help center, "is not about... business or legal issues (some of the latter may be asked on Law.SE)" May 20, 2018 at 20:50
  • 2
    I’m voting to close this question because legal issues are off topic.
    – Aaron
    Aug 21, 2022 at 4:30
  • Copyright law questions are off topic here.
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Aug 21, 2022 at 22:20

4 Answers 4


You have copyright by virtue of having composed it. You can assert this by writing 'Copyright © Vaaal 2018' on the page, though it isn't a strict requirement. I'd just leave it there. Should a dispute occur, it will cost far more than it's worth to pursue the case.

  • Slightly off topic, but I never understand it when people say “it’s not worth pursuing this case, just give up”. How hard can it be? You don’t even need a lawyer you can just say “I composed it” and show proof, and the judge will approve you... what’s the catch? May 23, 2018 at 12:02
  • Whenit looks like there's money to be made, a catch will appear! And courts have made some VERY strange decisions on music copyright cases!
    – Laurence
    May 23, 2018 at 12:43

I would time stamp the document.

A time stamp is a certificate that the document existed at that particular time. If the document contains your name, it is clear that you had it then. If somebody tries to use it, that person will not be able to demonstrate that it had the document before you.

Note that the document itself is stamped, not an envelope that may contain anything. It is done online, so it is easy. I use True Time Stamp, which as they say is:

Timestamping authority that provides extremely robust proof that your invention, copyrightable work, design, idea, or document existed today.

A fingerprint of your document is made and the fingerprint is time stamped. It is virtually impossible to have two different documents with the same time stamp. Make sure that you maintain an unaltered copy of your document.

  • 1
    I'm from the old school. Put the score in an envelope, mail it to yourself. When it comes in the mail you have a date stamped on the envelope. Don't open the envelope. This will be the proof that it's your work with a time stamp.
    – Nachmen
    May 22, 2018 at 7:55
  • @Nachmen Correct. The problem is that you can open the envelope only once. Time stamping the document is for always and you can easily time stamp every slight modification you make. If you want to do it really well, now and in the old days, you have to deposit it with a public notary but, of course, the costs are much higher. May 22, 2018 at 20:58

You may also video tape your concert, clearly label and tag it as your composition with the date, then upload it to Youtube or some such which will serve as a record. You can also upload a cover page to a blog or something. All these little submissions would help to serve as proof in the event someone steals it and it is worth your time and money to go after them.

I wouldn't worry about it. 100% of everything is stolen today and it is unavoidable. You can check out sites such as MusicaNeo to self publish but, we now live in a society that thinks intellectual property is free for the taking.

I arranged a fugue on Itsy Bitsy Spider, posted it for free and got over 1,500 downloads. I then asked for a donation and received $2. I then locked the download asking for $3 and never got a hit. I then attended a Halloween organ recital and was shocked to hear my piece being played and my name was not listed in the program. A HS band director took my arrangement and arranged it for his band and again, no credit. I called him out on it and he corrected it.

I had the privilege of working with a (once) world renowned composer who opined that we should write to give it away. If our work is any good, he said fame and fortune will find us. But, it can't find us if we don't first put it out there.

So, given the choice, I'd rather give it away to 1,500 people than sell one copy. You know that the guy who purchased the copy made copies for his friends.

Watch the movie ARTIFACT (you can find it FREE in a couple hundred locations online) about the band Thirty Seconds To Mars and their battle with agents, record labels and publishers. In one of the closing scenes, Jared Leto asks a concert crowd of abut 20,000 "How many of you have our new album?" The crowd erupts. He then asks "How many of you downloaded it illegally from the internet?" They tripled in volume. In Jared's case, giving it away for free attracts paying people to his concerts.

There is a comic, whose name escapes me, who was offered a million dollars to produce an HBO special. He asked for more and they said no. So, he self published it, posted it for free and asked for a $5 donation and made five million and didn't have to share a penny.

  • I agree with everything you said. I don't mind if people use my work. I would mind if they did without putting my name on it, but I wouldn't persecute it.
    – Vaaal
    May 21, 2018 at 14:59

Laurence's answer is definitely correct - just writing that you claim copyright on it should assert your possession. Another, more legally robust technique, though, which I believe was successfully employed in the past, is to physically mail yourself a letter containing a copy of your work before you publish it. Then, do not open it. The official postmark (with a date on it) will serve as proof that you created your work before the supposed publication by any ill-doers.

  • 5
    Before you go to the effort of mailing a letter to oneself, you should Google "Poor Man's Copyright", and see if it actually serves any purpose. A quick search says it might be useful in the UK, but not so much in the USA, or Australia, for example.
    – endorph
    May 21, 2018 at 3:36

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