How to Get (Almost) Worldwide Copyright Protection
Music business tips for the global musician
One of the most frightening things for musicians putting their music out in the world is… well… putting music out into a world full of people, some of whom are of the mind that music should be free for everyone to use without a thought of paying the musicians who create the music.
What wise musicians do is register their work for copyright protection in their home countries, but, it is still a big, big world out there. I live and work with musicians in the United States, but the world is much bigger than the United States. So, what about copyright protection that works around the world?
This brings me to a conversation I had with a money-wise Canadian musician, who happened to notice that for his collection of songs, it would be more cost-effective for him to register his works in the United States of America than in Canada.
How did this calculation come about? The United States has two different ways for composers to register their works: a single work can be registered for $35, but a collection of works can be registered under a single main title for the collection for $55. Apparently, Canada does not offer this option! So, our Canadian colleague recognized that since he has 35 works, he could either pay $1,750 in Canadian dollars or register across the border for $55!
But, here was the question: can my Canadian colleague do that and still have his rights respected in the United States even though he is not a citizen, and also have Canada recognize his US registration?
The answer is yes! Anyone whose works are not published are welcome to register their works in the United States, and all countries that are signatories to the same copyright treaties as the United States recognize United States copyright registration. Canada and the United States are both signatories to the old and venerable Berne Convention treaty and the World Copyright Act—one would have been sufficient, but the second embraces 175 countries! So, your registration in either the United States or Canada would be recognized in most countries in the world.
Here is a link to the five big copyright treaties, and who is a signatory—there is a lot of protection out there, because all signatories recognize the registrations of the others!
There is one tiny catch, something to keep in mind for your children and grandchildren: copyright terms differ from country to country, and if there is an international court dispute about when your works go into the public domain, your heirs will need to know the difference! The United States copyright term is EITHER lifetime of the composer plus 70 years for unpublished works OR 95 years from the date of publication. That is a long term compared to others in the world, and the courts tend to default to the SHORTEST term! Just make sure your heirs are aware, should your music become an international sensation!
Meanwhile, even though US immigration policies are certainly controversial and going through changes, the United States will still gladly accept music and provide copyright registration for unpublished music from anywhere in the world, and offers an affordable option for those who have lots of music!
Love them or hate them, the fundamental laws of the United States always favor property holders, and if you are a music creator, you qualify, because you hold a piece of intellectual property the instant you create your music. This is the ONE area in which there is no discrimination in US law. Once upon a time, the US realized it was necessary to level the playing field in order for it to have a chance to survive and thrive and attract the best and brightest around the world—and I will post another article about that soon enough. But in the meantime, YOU, music creator, whoever you are, wherever you are, qualify among the best and brightest—so feel welcomed!
One more thing... do YOU want copyright protection for your works, and would you like to register in the United States? Check out and enroll in The Ultimate Guide to Copyright Songs over on Udemy—let me walk you through the process, step by step!
Prefer to read about the copyright process and other music business information and do it all yourself? No problem—zip on through The Freedom Guide For Music Creators, designed by me for musicians like you to read, use, and prosper with!