Understanding the Sound Recording Copyright Registration Process

If you are producing your own songs at home (assuming you are the one recording, mixing and mastering the track); one of the most important thing to do once you have finalized your track is to apply for a sound recording copyright in your government office.

A copyright application will protect your work and is a legal evidence that you are the owner and creator of that specific sound recording work. Before you can apply for sound recording copyright, the following are the best practices:

1.) Do not immediately apply for sound recording copyright once you have completed your work. It is because you might still need to tweak, remaster, remix or even re-record your song and create a better version. Copyright application can cost you money, so to save some, wait until you have finalized everything.

2.) Since the song is still in the production phase and you are still on the process of tweaking, editing , etc. You should not expose your song to the public or even distribute your sample recording. This will minimize possible infringement issues that can be difficult to sort out in the long run if you still have not applied for a copyright application.

3.) Finalize the work title before filling up a copyright application form. The song or work title is one of the most important elements in the copyright application because it is frequently used once the work will be publicly released.

4.) To save money, wait until you have at least 3 or at most 13 tracks (recommended for faster processing on the part of copyright office) finalized before you can apply for a sound recording copyright application. For example, say you are creating your own master recording compilation (finalized track) of 12 tracks. You can place all songs in the CD or digital format (such as high resolution MP3) and then submit it as one application to the copyright office.

CD case

CD case

In this case, the work title is simply NOT the song title because the work is composed of different songs. The most recommended work title is the album title in case you are producing work for a specific artist.

Submitting more than 20 songs in one package is still OK but in my experience, the processing time is very slow (maybe the copyright office needs to document each of those songs, I am not sure).

5.) You are the author of the sound recording copyright if you are the one creating the recording, managing the sessions, supervising the recording and financing everything. If you are hired by a recording label to create the album and the recording project is entirely financed by the label, then the author of sound recording copyright is the recording label. I believe this will be stipulated clearly in the recording contract with the producer or the artist.