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Copyright Registration of Sound Recordings

Sound Recording Overview

Maybe you've composed the words and music to a new song you are sure is going to be used in a TV commercial. Even though you recorded it, you might not be interested in registering the particular recording but only in registering the composition itself. You can do that and several other actions to protect your sound recording.

Your sound recording can be extremely valuable. Historically in the music business, the sound recording copyright was always owned by the record company, not the composers. Today, it is far more common to see writers or publishers owning the sound recording because it's easier to self distribute with the proliferation of the Internet and music streaming services like Spotify or Pandora.

If you want to know how to copyright your sound recordings, follow these steps to register your recording of music, drama, or a lecture with the U.S. Copyright Office.

Step 1

Make sure your work is a sound recording. Sound recordings are "works that result from the fixation of a series of musical, spoken, or other sounds, but not including the sounds accompanying a motion picture or other audiovisual work." Common examples include recordings of music, drama, or lectures.

Copyright registration for a sound recording alone is neither the same as, nor a substitute for, registration for the musical, dramatic, or literary work recorded. The underlying work may be registered in its own right apart from any recording of the performance, or in certain cases, the underlying work may be registered together with the sound recording. If you are curious how to register performing arts works, see FindLaw's Performing Arts section.

Step 2

Put into one envelope or package:

  1. A completed application Form SR.
  2. Pay the fee to the "Register of Copyrights."
  3. Non-returnable copy(ies) of the material to be registered. (Note: To register a copyright claim in a sound recording, the deposit requirement is either one or two phonorecords. The number and format required depend upon several factors.

Step 3

Send the package to:

Library of Congress
Copyright Office
101 Independence Avenue, S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20559-6000

Your registration becomes effective on the day that the U.S. Copyright Office receives your application, payment, and copy(ies) in acceptable form. If your submission is in order, you will receive a certificate of registration in 4 to 5 months.

For more details, please see U.S. Copyright Office Circular 56, Copyright Registration for Sound Recordings and other informational circulars.

File Electronically

In today's digital world, filing anything online can save you time, money, and a stamp. Copyright registration is no exception. The U.S.Copyright Office has an online system in place that allows you to register everything with a few clicks of a button. The advantages are simple:

  • It is faster,
  • You can track your status online,
  • You can pay by credit card, and
  • Upload deposits directly into as electronic files.

Hire a Legal Professional

Music is life and livelihood for many artists. Don't let someone else use your work without giving you the proper credit or royalty payments. Hire an experienced intellectual property attorney in your area today to help with copyrighting your sound recordings.

Next Steps
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how to best protect your business' intellectual property.
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