Sometimes songwriters overlooked the differences between published and unpublished songs. It is because it sometimes looks self-explanatory and easy to understand.
In reality, there is still a lot of situations and complex scenarios that could confuse songwriters even more. As a result, it’s hard to make a distinction between the two.
So you will ask: “How to really publish a song?”
Definition of “published” and “unpublished” song
To know how to publish a song is to start defining technically these terms. The best definition that would be easiest to understand is below:
“Published song is a song that has been released or distributed for public use and access whether it is commercial or non-commercial in nature”.
Of course the opposite is the definition of unpublished song. An example:
Supposing you just written a song today; then you want to publish it. You might ask: “Does copyright itself an act of publishing the work?”
The answer is no. It is because copyright is simply putting your song ideas in tangible forms such as on a paper and recorded on a cassette tapes. This is an evidence of ownership and creation. You are not publishing anything to the public.
The act of submitting your work to copyright office is just a registration of your copyrighted work (which will be used as evidence of copyright ownership that is recognized by the state copyright laws). Registration is not the same as publishing your song. It is because it is not yet released and distributed for public use.
So in this case, your song is still “unpublished”. It is why if you register your work to the copyright office, one of the fields in the copyright form would ask you if the work is published or unpublished. Now you should know the basic difference.
So how to really publish the song??
You will notice that there are many ways of publishing a song:
1.) Upload your song in the Internet (any websites). The file should be publicly accessible (whether as a download or for streaming). Good examples of these are artist and music websites such as Sound Cloud, YouTube, ReverbNation, MySpace, Facebook, etc.
Since they are now available to the public, the song is now published. This is true even you have not yet make a living out of it. If you simply upload the song privately and have not yet shared it with anyone or not accessible by public users; the song is still unpublished by definition.
2.) Burn the song into a CD or any mechanical media (tape, DVD, etc.) and share it with to the public. This is true if you went to off-line media promotions such as providing giveaways to the fans or selling the CD.