What is Copyright?
Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States for original works of authorship, including literary, dramatic, musical, architectural, cartographic, choreographic, pantomimic, pictorial, graphic, sculptural, and audiovisual creations. Copyright literally means “the right to copy.
For music, two separate forms of copyright exist; one for the “Performing Arts Work” and another for the “Sound Recording.” Knowing the difference between these two is the first step in applying for copyright protection. Performing Arts Works are intended to be “performed” directly before an audience or indirectly “by means of any device or process”. This refers to the musical composition. For example, the written form of your music would fall into this category.
Sound Recordings are the recordings themselves. According to the Library of Congress, 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.” For example, an audio recording of your performance would fall into this category. However, music played in conjunction with a visual at the same time would not fit this category.
The Copyright Office
The Copyright Office is the place where claims to copyright are registered and where documents relating to copyright may be recorded when the requirements of the copyright law are met. The Copyright Office also furnishes information about the provisions of the copyright law and reports on facts found in the public records of the Office.
The Office has an extensive website where you will find answers to almost any question regarding copyright law, why it exists, and how to get it. The website also provides a means of searching copyright registrations and recorded documents from 1978 forward, as well as links to related resources.
Filing Copyright Registration
1. Electronic Filing There is a new filing system in place for copyright registration of original works through the Copyright Office online system, called the eCO, or Electronic Copyright. It is the preferred method for registering work and has many benefits, including faster processing time and online tracking of your filing. Unlike the traditional method of mailing the completed work (ie: audio/video tape) to the Office, this new system allows those works to be uploaded online. The fee is $35. See the Tutorial at www.copyright.gov/eco/eco-tutorial.pdf
2. Fill-in Registration A manual version of the above form called the CO, which can be downloaded from the website, filled in and mailed in to the Office. The basic fee is higher ($45), although it is still considered to be a faster process than the traditional paper method due to the fact that the form contain a 2-D barcode that is scanned and processed at the Office.
3. Registration with Paper Forms The third method of Registration is the traditional method, using the paper forms such as PA (Performing Arts), SA (Sound Recording) etc. These are no longer available directly from the website as this is not the preferred method of registration, but can still be obtained by calling directly to the Office and requesting the Forms be mailed directly. The fee is also $45. Remember that online registration through eCO and fill-in Form CO can be used for the categories of works applicable to Forms TX, VA, PA, SR, and SE.
For additional information, FAQ’s and Tutorials on the Copyright Registration process, visit the website at www.copyright.gov
Good luck and best wishes!
The Music Bridge LLC