Steal My Song, Please!

Dear Steve:

I have a friend who writes his own songs and is looking for a basic contract to be used when he records this music so that they basically won’t steal his music.  I can’t seem to find a simple contract for him without having to pay out a chunk of money which we can’t afford.

Can you lead me in the right direction?

Thank you,



Dear Nancy:

You don’t need a contract; you need a copyright for the song and the recording.

Go to the US Government Copyright Office web page and file your copyright on-line, or the old fashioned way via paper.  Use form PA to protect the song itself and/or form SA for your recording of the song. Form SA will also protect the song itself, words and melody, so form PA is not really needed unless you have not made a recording of your song.

Once you have protected your song with a copyright the best thing that could ever happen to it would be for someone else to record it and have a big hit.  This is not stealing.  This is doing you a big favor.

A song that is released to the public is available for anyone else to record. This is called a compulsory mechanical license granted by The Harry Fox Agency. You will be paid via Harry Fox for CD/digital sales.  You also could be paid for airplay via one of three performance rights groups (ASACP, BMI, SESAC ) one of which you would join once your song is published or released.

Strictly speaking, if your song is just a demo and you don’t release it, then it is not available for others to record without your permission. But say that someone does use your song, anyway. And say they have a huge hit—or even a minor one. If they claim authorship, you have your rock-solid copyright to wave in the air. They have done all the hard work for you by making a hit of your song while you just collect the money, after your highly public court battle.

Good Luck,

Steve Rapson


Steve is the author of The Art of the Soloperformer: A Field Guide to Stage & He is also a recording artist with several CD’s in release.


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