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Thomas Swartz
Thomas Swartz, Lawyer
Category: Intellectual Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 3006
Experience:  Twenty one years experience as a lawyer in New York and New Jersey. Former Appellate Law Clerk.
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Someone shot a video of me playing the guitar and singing a

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Someone shot a video of me playing the guitar and singing a song I wrote. They may want to post it on YouTube. What do I need for a copyright notice to protect all my rights, as A) lyricist, B) author of the melody and arrangement and C) performer, both video and audio. I may not have any rights in C as this was shot in the course of a seminar I was taking and I think I signed a waiver of rights in any recordings. At the time I had no idea that this scenario would occur.
I don't know how likely it is that anybody could make money off any of this, but I want to protect myself as fully as possible.
Please advise.

It is true that you would not own rights to the video and audio of the performance (C) as this would be owned by the person shooting the video, and you apparently waived any rights in that particular performance. But you can and certainly should ask the photographer to put a copyright notice on the video which simple says something like:

"Song Title," music and lyrics © your name and the date you wrote the song.

In terms of protecting the song itself, you should file your copyright to the song with the U.S. Copyright Office. You would send the Copyright Office the sheet music with lyrics. For details on registering a copyright see here: How to Register a Copyright.

Copyright comes into existence automatically when you create something and place it in fixed form. So when you wrote the song and fixed in either sheet music or a recording etc. your copyright rights to the song were created. But registration is important as it establishes the date of creation, your ownership, and it allows you to actually enforce the copyright by commencing a lawsuit. You can not commence a lawsuit to enforce a copyright until registration takes place even though the rights "exist" from the time of creation.

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