To Copyright or Not to Copyright: Pondering the “Writing” Part of Songwriting

Copyrights? For books, it’s a no-brainer. Duh.

For songs? Well, yes, when I first started writing them, about two and a half years ago, my music teacher persuaded me to go through the copyrighting process as each song came out. Obediently, I did…through the first eight or nine songs. Then I got tired. (And it got expensive! $35 per song adds up!)

And I started wondering…what would happen if I didn’t?

Worst-case scenario: I upload one of my songs to YouTube. It goes viral. Everyone starts singing it. A famous singer picks it up, does a cover, makes a million bucks.

You know the part of that scenario I’m focused on? “Everyone starts singing it.” The million bucks? That singer’s welcome to it. Money is not driving my songwriting impulse. Money, apparently, does not figure anywhere in my calculations.

My books? Yes, definitely. I would love to be paid for them. But they represent hours and hours, weeks, months, years of my life. My songs–maybe a few hours each, no more.

Even more than the time differential, my songs come from a place that is wholly spontaneous, unplanned, even startling…unlike my books, which represent a deliberate and highly-planned career shift.

So…by all means, check out my songs as they begin to appear in cyberspace. Let me know if you’d like the lyrics and chords. Sing them, share them, pass them on. I’ll be nothing but thrilled.

And if Emmylou Harris that famous singer out there ever does a Gretchen Wing cover and makes a million bucks…feel free to remind me of this post if you ever hear me snark about it.

Think I’m being naive here? My mind’s still open on this topic, so feel free to chime in.

4 thoughts on “To Copyright or Not to Copyright: Pondering the “Writing” Part of Songwriting

  1. I don’t think it’s naive in the least. (or that you are, either!)

    I give every bit as much time and attention to my Star Trek fan fiction as I do to my original stories. And yet, even with Amazon publishing fan fiction, I will not be charging anything for these stories. They will be forever freely offered…

    Because Star Trek has given me so very much, since I was 13 years old, and sharing my interpretation of this alternate reality freely is a way I can pay that forward. Monetary renumeration would cheapen the gift….

    And it isn’t about money. I so agree with you there.

    Now, if people should come to my other writing via reading my Trek writing, I won’t hesitate to accept pay for those. My kids, after all, continue to outgrow their clothing and to eat and to want to go places, do things, and get stuff. =D

    I’ll pop by at some point to check out your music- when I don’t have a sleeping spouse beside me….

    • Thanks, SJ! I wish I had been raised as a Trekkie so I could relate to your fan fiction. Closest I ever got was back in the early 70s when I spent a couple of summers with my best friend (who’s German) in Germany, watching “Raumschiff Enterprise” auf Deutsch! So in my mind, Capt. Kirk & Co. speak German. 🙂

      • I may have to look it up in German so I can hear Spock and McCoy argue in Duetsch!

        Honestly, though, you don’t need to be a Trekkie to enjoy my fanfiction. I can say this because I have more than a couple of readers who are really into it, even though they’ve never seen the shows, and don’t particularly want to.

        I’m much more about the deeper stories that I know are in there. With Spock, it’s the conflict of being both human and Vulcan – the child of two planets with very different states of being. And there’s also a deep telepathic connection to someone he can’t be certain is real, and the quest of a lifetime – to learn whether she is.

        With Trip and T’Pol. from the prequel series Enterprise (also my favorite), it’s a love story where the characters don’t even share DNA, a common species, or cultural conditioning. Their brains and psyches are very different, their instincts are different. Much misunderstanding. Much negotiation. Much much passion. And a whole lot of willingness to keep coming back and trying to figure it all out –

        Yes, there are Trek twists, but I’m going for the universal (Pun semi-intentional!) here.

        You might just like it.

        But, of course, and logically, I won’t like you any less if you never read any of it. I do it because I love it, and want to share with others who might, and that’s all…

  2. I love how you add “and logically” to that last paragraph. See, I get that! And you’re right, the story is the key, both inner and outer quests. Loving, creating, sharing–that is what it’s about.

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