Any songwriters/composers can publish their own work by joining the collection societies and registering their 'copyrights'. Self-publishing means that the songwriter/composer retains the full-royalty, after the collection society's commission is deducted, and does not have to 'split' it with a publisher. However, the self-published songwriter/composer would also then be responsible for carrying out the tasks normally undertaken by a publisher, for example exploiting the compositions by approaching potential synch partners, funding recordings or finding acts to record the songs.

How Do I Protect My Music?

It is worth alerting other people that you own the copyright by adding the © symbol with the name of the composer(s) or the publisher to whom you have assigned the work. In addition to this, add the year the track was written or recorded.

Although it is not essential to take one of the following steps, proving that you own the copyright to a song/composition will be made significantly easier by doing so.

Send yourself a CD or manuscript of the composition(s) by registered post or courier. Sign your name across the seal and write the name of the songs/composition on the outside of the envelope for your own reference. Make sure that the stamp indicates the date. Do not open the envelope, as it will need to be sealed in order to prove it has not been opened since the date it was sent. Only if it is sealed, will it be valid as evidence in court.

Submit a recording or a manuscript to your solicitor and request a receipt, which states the date and a description of the work.

If I am self-publishing, what should I do if I think someone is infringing my copyright?

Before proceeding any further, check that no copyright exemption applies to the user. If there is no exemption, write to the appropriate collection society and inquire if the user has been granted permission to use the composition. It is possible that it is being used as part of a blanket agreement granted by a collection society, or that permission has been granted by the music publishing company.

If it is a breach of copyright, consider what resolution you would favour, and after seeking legal advice, suggest this to the offending party.

Should this fail, then a court has the power to award damages, grant an injunction banning further use and, where the music is being used on a physical sound carrier, oblige the user to hand over the offending copies.

For further information regarding music copyright, see:

If I am self-publishing, who Should I Send My Music To?

Publishers specialise in getting music used in a wide variety of outlets. However, there is nothing to stop a self-published songwriter/composer approaching companies or music-users who might be interested in using their compositions. These might include advertising agencies, music supervisors responsible for selecting music for films, or the management of pop acts looking for material. Many of these contacts can be found via music industry directories, by inquiring on BACS forums or simply by doing some research online.

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