The trick is to never open these envelopes containing the cassette tapes or other storage devices with your song or recording.
So when is the proper time to submit the material for copyright? I think:
a.) The lyrics and music are final when the song is already mixed and schedule for professional mastering (which also have a scheduled release date like in an indie or major label album projects). If there is no release date, it is not yet final. So don’t’ official register it for copyright because it can still be subjected to a lot of changes.
Bear in mind that if the song or album will be scheduled for release and the song has been mixed completely; there is no going back to revise the lyrics/music; otherwise the affected projects would be re-recorded.
b.) The sound recording is final after mastering process.
In most cases, like an independent album project, you would be submitting two copies for copyright application, one for copyright SR (sound recording, assuming you record and produced the album) and the other for PA (performing arts for music and lyrics, assuming you write all the songs or other writers are known) AFTER all songs has been recorded, mixed and mastered successfully with a scheduled date of release.
Not organizing the work versions and not tracking them in paper
As a producer that owns a lot of sound recording copyright; there are times when a certain song has a lot of sound recording versions. For example “Song X” has both the studio version and an acoustic/unplugged version. Since the sound recording is different for each version, each one of them would be registered to copyright if they are the final versions.
As your catalog songs grow in numbers, it would become hard to manage everything particularly if you made a lot of copyright registrations in the past and you made a lot of versions for each song. It makes sense to track each version in paper or simply in an Excel spreadsheet. There is no standard format, but it would look something as describe in this tutorial on how to organize your music catalog.
When will you received your US Copyright Certificate?
I submitted my first copyright application to Philippines copyright office in 2004 and it takes around one year for the copyright certificate to arrive (using snail mailing).
In year 2005, the online copyright in US is not yet fully activated. I tried submitting copyright through third party services like Click and Copyright and it took two years after that for copyright office to send the certificate from US to Philippines.
I filed another copyright application in 2008 and it was reflected immediately on their online copyright databases (max 6 months from online application, you will receive the copyright certificate which is way faster than using third party services).
The online method is of course faster, but this is not available in most countries, so realistically it would take around one year to receive the copyright certificate.
Content last updated on July 23, 2012