Each performing rights organization has its own fees for setting up a publishing company and many impose an annual charge or collect annual dues. BMI, for example, charges a one-time fee of $150 for individually owned publishing companies and $250 for partnerships, corporations (including sole stockholder corporations) and limited liability companies.
A publisher’s main function, whether it’s an individual or a corporation, is to exploit (get your songs recorded, performed, etc.) your songs and collect income from that exploitation. A publisher works with producers, directors, music supervisors, record companies, commercial production companies and trailer houses to negotiate fees for licensing your music for artists to record and for use in movies and on TV, in advertising and other outlets.
Again, your song is copyrighted as soon as you finish writing it but it’s a good idea to register that copyright with the government (see “How do I copyright my songs?). Registering a song with a PRO will allow you to receive performance royalties if that song gets radio play; it does not give you protection under copyright law.
Registering your copyrights is not required but it is highly recommended since doing so will give you certain protection under copyright law in case you need to sue someone for using your song without your permission.
Technically, your song is copyrighted as soon as you finish writing it. However, you’re going to want to register that copyright to protect yourself in case someone tries to use your song without your permission. You can download copyright registration forms from the Copyright Office at http://www.copyright.gov/forms, or you can call the Forms Hotline at 202-707-9100, or write to the Copyright Office, Library of Congress, 101 Independence Avenue, S.E., Washington, DC 20559-6000. You can also register online, which is less expensive than paper filing and much faster. Online registration of a basic claim in an original work of authorship is $35.
Copyright is an exclusive right granted by law that allows you to control the use of your creative works. The current copyright term is life plus 70 years after the death of the surviving writer or author of the work.