Registering Your Public Domain Song Arrangements

What I love about being a DIY musician is that I learn something new and interesting almost every week.  Last year, I decided to release a custom orchestral arrangement of one of my favorite Christmas tunes that I created from a public domain score.  I like to do my own research, but I never really figured out ASCAP’s public domain registration option until a music library in the UK contacted me about sending my Christmas song to one of their clients.  The contract that they sent me required that I list my song’s ASCAP registration information.  Of course, I wasn’t prepared since I had never registered a public domain arrangement with ASCAP before and didn’t think that my song qualified for that process.  Now that I have lived and learned from that experience, here is what you need to do if you want to register your own public domain arrangement with ASCAP (if you happen to be a member there):

  • Click on the ‘Register a Title’ link

register title

  • Make sure the ‘Standard Form’ and ‘General Registration’ options are selected.  Click the the ‘Begin’ button.

Standard Form

  • On the Questionnaire screen, select the ‘Public domain music’ option.  You can also select the ‘Public domain lyrics(words)’ option if that applies to your situation.  Click the ‘Save & Continue’ button.

public domain

  • Fill out the General Information for your song.  The only fields that are required on this page are ‘Work Title’ and ‘Person to Contact About This Registration’.  You should also fill in as much of the optional information on this page as possible.

Work Title

  • Now you need to fill information about the entitled parties to your work.  I’m also registered with ASCAP as my own publisher, so I clicked the ‘Add’ button to select my company as the publisher.

AWM Publisher

  • Click on the ‘Add’ button in the ‘Writers’ section to select your writers and % ownership.  In my case, the 2 writers that I added are ‘Traditional….(Public Domain’ and ‘Audrey Williams’.  I listed ‘Traditional’ as the composer with 0% ownership.  I listed myself as the arranger with 50% ownership.  (The listed publisher owns the other 50%.)


  • Next, I enter the ‘Artists and Performers’ information.  Since I created the entire song using my own acoustic cello and MIDI controlled software instruments, I just listed myself in this section.  I also entered the release date information.  Now, I can click the ‘Save & Continue’ button.

artist & performers

  • Enter the appropriate information on the ‘Public Domain Work Information’ screen.  This is where you enter the ‘Original Title’, designate the ‘Composer’ as ‘Traditional’ and designate the ‘Source’ from which the public domain work was obtained.  Click on the ‘Save & Continue’ button.

public domain source

  • You are now at the screen where you can review your entry before clicking on the ‘Submit’ button.

I’ve only ever been a member of ASCAP, so I don’t know the process for the other PROs.

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