When considering copyrighting a musical work, it is important to distinguish between a musical composition and a sound recording, which are both aspects of music that are eligible to be protected by the same individual or multiple individuals at once. Additionally, sending a musical composition doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a claim to copyright in the sound recording given the collaborative and creative nature of musical works.
A musical composition primarily consists of music including any accompanying words. The author of a musical composition is typically the composer and/or the lyricist. A musical composition can be in two different forms. The first type of form is a notated copy, such as sheet music, and the second form is a phono-record, which is a cassette tape, LP or CD.
A sound recording is comprised of the fixation of a series of musical, spoken or other sounds. The author of a sound recording is typically the performer(s) whose performance is fixed or the record producer who produces the sound in the final recording.
In cases where the author of the musical composition is identical to the author of the sound recording, the musical composition may be registered with the sound recording in one single registration. However, if the authors of the musical composition and the sound recording are different, two separate applications are mandatory for effective copyright registration.
In order to file a proper application for copyright registration, the author must submit a completed application form, a nonrefundable filing fee, and a nonreturnable deposit, which consists of copy or copies of the work being registered with the Copyright Office. When the application is successfully processed, the effective registration date will be the date that the Copyright Office received all the required materials even if the office has not yet issued the official certificate of copyright.
Registering the copyright online is the most efficient and economic way to complete the application process. In order to find the online registration portal, visit www.copyright.gov and select “Electronic Copyright Office.” Electronic applications will receive email status updates. Mailing the application is permissible, however, the Copyright Office will not send a letter acknowledging receipt. Given that the Copyright Office receives over 600,000 applications per day, the expected application wait time will fluctuate, however, it is typically between six and eight weeks.
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*Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to be legal advise. We highly recommend speaking to an attorney if you have any legal concerns. Contacting us through our website does not establish an attorney-client relationship.*