Richmond, CA asked in Copyright and Intellectual Property

Q: Copyright Music: Can I register songs once as a "work of the performing arts" and then again as a "sound recording"?

I have composed and recorded about 15 songs. I am the sole creator and musician. I have copyrighted each song with the online copyright office. I registered them as "Works of the performing arts". So far, so good. But now I think I should have registered them as "Sound recordings" which protect both the actual recording and the music. My question is: Can I register them again as "sound recordings" ? Will this cause a conflict at the Copyright Office? If I do, then I will have two copyrights for each song (for "work of the performing arts" and "sound recording"). Is this a good or bad idea?

1 Lawyer Answer
Mark A. Baker
Mark A. Baker
  • Intellectual Property Lawyer
  • Tallahassee, FL

A: I advise songwriters to register their underlying compositions (on form PA) as soon as they are in a solid form, that is, with lyrics, chord changes and melodies. These songs may have been recorded as 'demo' versions. This way, you can circulate your music to others before you're ready to commercially release, for feedback, to seek others to cover your songs, etc., and you have the protections of the Copyright Act in the event someone steals them.

After the songs have been recorded in what you'd consider to be the final form for commercial release, that is, they have been professionally recorded, mixed and mastered, then the owner of the sound recording, which in a standard record contract is the record company, should register the sound recording (form SR), and include all the major participants in the process. In a standard record contract, the record company owns all of the elements of the sound recording and packaging - from the musical performances of the musicians/singers/producer, to the engineer and packaging art - as "works for hire" provided by the various participants. Note, though, that the songwriters (unless they've transferred those rights) still own the copyrights to the underlying compositions, and a typical record contract also pays royalties to the holders of the copyrights in the compositions, although at less than the statutory rate.

If you are not working with a record company, and you intend to self-release, then before you place the final product into the marketplace, you should register the sound recording.

Hope this helps.

Will Blackton agrees with this answer

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