Songrite Copyright Office
Copyright Office Coat of Arms

International Copyright Registration Service

Information About Song - Music and Lyrics Copyrights :

Copyright Explained.

Copyright gives the creators of a wide range of material, such as literature, art, music, sound recordings, films and broadcasts. These rights include economic rights which enable the owner to control use of their material in a number of ways, such as by;

  • Making copies,
  • Issuing copies to the public,
  • Performing in public,
  • Broadcasting and
  • Use on-line.

It also gives moral rights to be identified as the creator of certain kinds of material, and to object to distortion or mutilation of it. (Material protected by copyright is termed a "work".)

However, copyright does not protect ideas, or such things as names or titles.

The purpose of copyright is to allow creators to gain economic rewards for their efforts and so encourage future creativity and the development of new material which benefits us all. Copyright material is usually the result of creative skill and/or significant labour and/or investment, and without protection, it would often be very easy for others to exploit material without paying the creator.

Most uses of copyright material therefore require permission from the copyright owner. However there are exceptions to copyright, so that some minor uses may not infringe copyright.

Copyright protection is automatic as soon as there is a record in any form of the material that has been created. However, if a dispute occurs you may have to prove copyright ownership, this is where registration is of vital importance. Creators / authors can take certain steps to help prove that material is theirs but copyright registration is by far the most effective.

Who owns the rights in a work?

  • In the case of a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work, the general rule is that the author, i.e. the person who created the work, is the first owner of the economic rights under copyright. This rule also applies to commissioned works. However, where such a work is made in the course of employment, the employer is the first owner of these rights, unless an agreement to the contrary has been made with the author. In some situations two or more people may be joint authors and/or joint owners of copyright.
  • In the case of a film, the principal director and the film producer are joint authors and first owners of the economic rights, and similar provisions as referred to above apply where the director is employed.
  • In the case of a sound recording the author and first owner of copyright is the record producer; in the case of a broadcast, the broadcaster; and in the case of a published edition, the publisher.

Copyright is, however, a form of property which, like physical property, can be bought or sold, inherited or otherwise transferred, wholly or in part. So, some or all of the economic rights may subsequently belong to someone other than the first owner. In contrast, the moral rights accorded to authors of literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works and film directors remain with the author or director or pass to his or her heirs on death.

Copyright in material produced by a Government department belongs to the Crown.  The Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI) can provide more information about this.

Using Other Peoples Work?

As well as owning copyright works yourself, you may wish to make use of someone else's copyright protected works.  There are certain very specific situations where you may be permitted to do so without seeking permission from the owner.

If your use does not fall within these exceptions then you may consider buying the copyright or, as is more usually the case, obtaining a licence from the owner for your agreed use.

Locating the copyright owner can sometimes be difficult but failure to get permission may result in legal action against you.

Copyright is a type of intellectual property. Like physical property, it cannot usually be used without the owner's permission. Of course, the copyright owner may refuse to give permission for use of their work.

Like any form of property copyright can be bought, sold, transferred, inherited, and so on. If you wish to buy someone's copyright there would need to be a written, signed contract stating the transfer of right to you has taken place. This is known as an assignment.

You should note that with certain copyright material even if the creator sells the copyright in the work to you they will still have moral rights. This means that for instance the creator will still have the right to be identified as the author (providing he had claimed that right previously) and to object to any derogatory treatment of the work.  Moral rights in a work can not be transferred or 'assigned' but a creator is entitled to waive that is chose not to exercise those rights.  This would again have to be in writing.

Some minor uses may fall within the scope of one of the exceptions to copyright, but if you want to use a copyright work, you will usually need to approach the copyright owner and ask to purchase the actual copyright in the work or, as is more usual, negotiate a licence to cover the use you intend to make of the work.

A licence is a contract between you and the copyright owner and it is for both parties to negotiate the terms and conditions, including the payment or royalty for the use. There are no rules in copyright law governing what may be acceptable terms and conditions, but other law, particularly competition law, might be relevant to licence agreements.  Sometimes copyright owners act collectively to licence certain uses and collective licensing bodies can be approached for a licence. There are many organisations that represent copyright ownersandusers.

What you Cannot Copyright.

Ideas are not protected by copyright. Copyright does extend to the form of expression used by an author in conveying or explaining his or her ideas but does not extend to the ideas themselves which become public property the moment they are disclosed.

In order to be eligible for protection under the Copyright Act, a work must contain a minimal amount of original creative authorship, be it in the literary, musical or artistic fields. Slogans, short phrases and names do not usually meet this requirement and are generally not protected under copyright legislation.

A title is used to identify a work and is not usually, in itself, protected by copyright.

Names, words, symbols or designs used in association with or to identify, goods or services are eligible for protection under the Trade-marks Act.

United States of America

The term of copyright for a particular work depends on several factors, including whether it has been published, and, if so, the date of first publication. As a general rule, for works created after January 1, 1978, copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. For an anonymous work, a pseudonymous work, or a work made for hire, the copyright endures for a term of 95 years from the year of its first publication or a term of 120 years from the year of its creation, whichever expires first. For works first published prior to 1978, the term will vary depending on several factors. To determine the length of copyright protection for a particular work, consult chapter 3 of the Copyright Act (title 17 of the United States Code).


For literary, dramatic and musical works that were published during the lifetime of the author, copyright lasts for 70 years from the end of the year in which the author died. For published sound recordings and films, the duration of copyright is 70 years from the end of the year in which the recording or film was published. Where such items remain unpublished, the copyright term may not commence until publication takes place. In contrast, for artistic works, copyright lasts for the life of the artist plus 70 years, and publication status is irrelevant.

The 70 year copyright terms above came into effect on 1 January 2005 when the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) amendments were made to the Copyright Act. The previous terms were generally 50 years and the 2005 changes were not applied retrospectively or to government publications. To calculate the copyright status of older works, find out if the period of copyright protection expired by 1 January 2005. For example, if an author died prior to 1 January 1955, works published during his or her lifetime are now out of copyright because the 50 year period of copyright protection elapsed by 1 January 2005. 


Generally, copyright lasts for the life of the author, the remainder of the calendar year in which the author dies, and for 50 years following the end of that calendar year. Therefore, protection will expire on December 31 of the 50th year after the author dies.

  • Performer's performances: copyright lasts until the end of 50 years after the end of the calendar year in which the performance occurs.  If it is fixed in a sound recording before the copyright expires, the copyright continues for 50 years after the end of the calendar year in which it is first fixed.  If the sound recording is published before the copyright expires, the copyright continues until 50 years after the end of the calendar year in which the first publication occurs or 99 years after the end of the calendar year in which the performance occurs, whichever is earlier.
  • Sound recordings: copyright lasts until 50 years after the end of the calendar year in which the first fixation of the sound recording occurs.  If the sound recording is published before the copyright expires, the copyright continues for 50 years after the end of the calendar year in which the first publication occurs.

United Kingdom and Europe

The term of protection or duration of copyright varies depending on the type of copyright work. For copyright works originating outside the UK or another country of the European Economic Area (EEA), the term of protection may also be shorter if it is shorter in the country of origin. There may also be variations in the term where a work was created before 1 January 1996.

But in general, the terms of protection in the UK are as follows:

  • Copyright in a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work lasts for the life of the author and 70 years from the end of the year in which he/she died.
  • Copyright in a film expires 70 years after the end of the year in which the death occurs of the last to survive of the principal director, the authors of the screenplay and dialogue, and the composer of any music specially created for the film.
  • Copyright in a sound recording expires 50 years from the end of the year in which it was made or, if published in this time, 50 years from the end of the year of publication.  If not published during that 50 year period, but it is played in public or communicated to the public during that period, 50 years from the first of these to happen.
  • Copyright in a broadcast expires 50 years from the end of the year of making of the broadcast.
  • Copyright in a published edition expires 25 years from the end of the year in which the edition was first published.

The above terms of protection were introduced or confirmed on 1 January 1996 when copyright terms throughout the EEA were harmonised. The above terms now apply to many works created before this date - further details of how the new copyright terms apply to such works are available on our extended/revived copyright page.

The term of protection is particularly complicated for photographs taken before 1 January 1996.

Joint Authorship

In the case of a work that has more than one author, the term will last for the remainder of the calendar year in which the last author dies and for the number of "Country Specified years" after that.


Copyright Registration

Can I register songs and lyrics together?

A mixture of songs and lyrics can be registered together under either a CR3-m or CR3-X registration certificate.

For example; this mix can be made up of five individual songs and three individual sets of song lyrics making a total of eight individual tracks, this example would require a CR3-X certificate

CR3-X and CR3-m Certificates.

Once a certificate has been issued by Songrite you cannot add extra tracks or modify the existing ones as this would negate the registration rendering the issued certificate null and void.

The fee payable is per certificate at the time of issue with no additions or modifications allowed.  

An issued certificate covers the work that is detailed upon the certificate only.

Modifications to a work are not permitted once it has been registered and the documents issued.

Submitting Your Songs and Lyrics

Yes, you must send the required copy or copies of the work to be registered. Your copies will not be returned but will be duplicated and securely stored as legal evidence. 

It would be impossible to verify the content and structure of the work without having a true copy, therefore we are unable to register any works where there is no tangible or retrievable copy available to us.

Registering Copyrights?

Our registration service extends to, and encompasses the works of authors, songwriters and composers anywhere in the world who wish to register the copyrights of their works and thus establish a record of copyright ownership.

Songrite Copyright Registration Service allows copyright owners to deposit copies of their work as legal evidence, and helps prove copyright ownership in case of infringement, plagiarism or other copyright disputes. We maintain a high standard of security for all submitted works and constantly update our database of registered works.

Safeguarding Personal Information:

Protecting your privacy is important to us. We do not share, sell or exchange names email addresses or any other personally identifying information about our members or clients to any other organisation or agency. The information that you disclose to Songrite Copyright Registration Office as a member or a postal client, is stored on our servers in a password-protected, personal account. To ensure maximum security, we use Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) technology and data encryption software, to provide secure communication over the Internet. The SSL is engaged during any interaction in which you enter personal information. All information is stored behind a secure computer firewall, a barrier that prevents outsiders from accessing our servers. Privacy:

Copyright © 2024 Songrite Copyright Office - Song Copyrights - Music Copyrights - Lyric Copyrights.

Copyright lasts for the lifetime of the author / composer plus a minimum of fifty (50) years.

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