Can I copyright unlimited songs for $99?
August 28, 2012
Dear Music Lawyer,
I would like to copyright multiple songs at a time online, and I found a few websites that say you can copyright unlimited songs or material for only $99 (e.g., smashcopyright.com, webencopyright.com, songregistration.com). What are the advantages and disadvantages of using one of these sites, and which one of the sites are legit (if any)?
None of the websites that you mentioned serve as a substitute for registration with the Copyright Office. Therefore, they do not afford you the benefits of copyright registration that I've discussed in previous posts.
What these services seem to be aimed at is simply providing third party proof that your work was in existence at the time you uploaded your music to the site. In other words, it doesn't appear that these services can do more than prove that (a) the work was created -- i.e., in existence -- prior to upload and (b) you said you were the owner of the work(s) that you uploaded.
Importantly, unlike registrations through the Copyright Office, "registering" the songs on those sites would not entitle you to file a lawsuit for copyright infringement. Similarly, registration on those sites would not entitle you to statutory damages under the Copyright Act and is unlikely to serve as prima facie evidence of the validity of your copyright(s).
Best I can tell, the product they are offering is an online version of the poor man's copyright whereby people will mail themselves a copy of the song and leave it unopened with the postmark showing (albeit much more expensive at $99 than a postage stamp). The sites may also prove to be valuable backup should you lose your demos and/or your computer crashes.
Bottom line: While sites such as smashcopyright.com, webencopyright.com, and songregistration.com may serve a purpose, those sites are not a substitute for registration with the Copyright Office.
Amy E. Mitchell