Downloading MP3s from the Internet is a common practice. A wise recording artist copyrights his or her work legally and controls how the work is used. To copyright an MP3 requires making sure you have the rights to the work, saving the MP3 in a tangible form, and completing and submitting the required forms for registering a copyright.
From the moment you record an original work you already own the copyright. Copyright protection automatically begins once the work is created. Even so, you should take the additional step of protecting your work with an official government copyright to document your ownership of the work. This ensures the benefits of earning money from the work, easily overcoming any challenges to your ownership of the MP3 and collecting monetary damages from anyone using your work without permission.
To copyright an MP3, you must be sure that you have rights to the work; the MP3 must be original and not copied from work produced by another person. You may also copyright a newly recorded version of a song that is in the public domain.
Creating a tangible format of your audio is also necessary to copyright an MP3. This tangible form of your MP3 must be something that can be held in your hands and exist as a record that the work belongs to you. For example, saving your MP3 to a DVD or CD would qualify as a tangible medium.
Once you've established you can copyright an MP3, the next step is to fill out forms at your national copyright office. This creates a public record of your copyright. If the fees involved in registering are prohibitive, you may also protect your work by sending yourself a tangible copy of the MP3 via registered mail and filing the unopened envelope in a safe place. This method gives you proof that you created the work and also verifies the date, which will be visible on the envelope.
Once you copyright an MP3 and begin distributing it, you'll typically want to have the copyright clearly visible. This helps reduce the risk of another person infringing on your copyright. Stating your copyright clearly could save you time and money in the future.
Even though you copyright an MP3, you should be aware that others can still legally use parts of your work under the fair use doctrine. Fair use allows people to use samples of your work in specific ways without your permission. For instance, use of parts of your work for commentary or reporting is allowed.