Copyright registration establishes the legal owner and/or publisher of intellectual property for works such as musical compositions or the lyrics for a song. In music, two registration forms are the most common. The PA Form and the SR Form.
PA Forms are used to copyright the composition itself, while SR Forms are intended to protect the sound recording of intellectual property. It is important to understand the difference between these two forms. Theoretically, you could copyright a terrific song using the PA Form, record your project and start selling your CDs in stores everywhere. But if you had never registered the sound recording of your song using the SR Form, another band could send in the very same recording using an SR Form and claim that your recording belonged to them. You would be credited for ownership of the song, but they would get the credit for all your hard labor in the recording studio and collect all the mechanical royalties! Hopefully that brief scenario shows just how important the SR Form really is.
The good news is that you can use the SR Form to do the job of both forms. Simply download the SR Form and, in the space called NATURE OF AUTHORSHIP, enter something along the lines of “All music and sound recording.” This will protect your interest in both the composition as well as the recording, all in one form, thereby saving you the cost of a second registration. This will not work if you use the form PA. Your application will be rejected if you do not use the SR Form to cover both aspects of your copyright.
If you are writing and recording a song with someone else, each space for the NATURE OF AUTHORSHIP might read, “50% of all music and sound recording.” Please note that you can not split percentages with regard to the sound recording. Everyone involved in the recording shares the same interest in the sound recording, even if different weighted percentages are used with regard to ownership of the actual song. If only one person or a few people own the song and more people are involved in the recording ownership who are not defined as providing a “work for hire” then a PA Form should be used to file for ownership and a separate SR Form should be used for copyright of the sound recording.
To save even more money by making the most of your SR Form, register several songs at once. You can register them as a “collection” by entering the name of the collection on the first title space and the individual “content titles” in the second space. To do this all authors must have the same percentages of ownership for each song. In other words, if you wrote one song all by yourself and the second song was written by two people, you would need to use a separate SR Form for each song. If you wrote all the songs yourself, or the same people wrote all the songs with the same ownership splits, you can use one form to register all the songs.
Finally, remember that PA Forms are all that is necessary to copyright lyrics only since there is no sound recording involved in the copyright. To copyright lyrics all you need is a PA Form, your lyric sheets, and your payment. Keep in mind that you can copyright the lyrics to several songs too, using the same principles described above. Have fun!
Be sure to check out the other types of copyright forms like the TX Form for poetry, books and other non-dramatic works. They can all be found at the links shown above!
If you are still mystified or simply want to know more about copywright information, trends and perspectives on fair use, and attitudes toward sampling, etc., check out Negativeland.com’s page on intellectual property issues.