When it comes to music and copyright, things can get confusing very quickly. If anyone is interested in copyrighting music, he or she needs to be aware of the copyright process, along with the definition of infringement, and how to make sure he or she gets the rights to use a sample from another copyrighted song.
The United States Copyright Office offers plenty of information about how to go about copyrighting music along with the fees necessary to file. There is a specific form for sound recordings which must be completely filled out and contain a copy of the sound recording along with the fee. In addition to information about how to file, people will also find specific law information surrounding copyright.
Alan Korn offers advice on how to obtain the rights to a sample to use in a song. It is important to remember that permission must be obtained from the copyright holder of the song to be sampled, along with the appropriate monetary compensation before a song may be sampled. Simply providing credit to the original copyright holder is not going to suffice for recordings made for profit. In many cases, the copyright holder is the record company. To get help figuring out who the copyright belongs to, the best place to start is with a lawyer, or the record company who released the song.
While a copyright does not need to be filed with the United States Copyright Office in order for a work to belong to you, without it, legal protection will not be offered. While you do not need a lawyer to file the necessary copyright paperwork, it is advisable to obtain legal counsel if money will be made from the work, to protect yourself. Many times, copyright suites spend more money than they would be rewarded if they won the case, but it is always better to be safe and completely have bases covered. Lawyers specializing in intellectual property law, and/or entertainment law are the best ones to approach.
According to the Public Domain Information Project, there are no sound recordings available to use under public domain--free from copyright. Anyone recording music needs to know the rights of the recording musician along with information about the fair use policy that determines what copyrighted material can be used for what purpose without infringement.
There are also many services that claim to file your copyright for you. There is an extensive fee for this service, and most of the time, this can be avoided by contacting the copyright office directly to get the forms and file on your own.