Music Artist Protection

The U.S. Copyright Office is responsible for maintaining copyright registration records in the United States, including a Copyright Catalog. The office issued a final rule on February 23, 2021, that creates a new “group” registration option for albums of music and works related to that music. The rule took effect on March 26, 2021. This new option, named Group Registration for Works on an Album of Music (GRAM), gives applicants a choice to register either a group of up to 20 musical works or a group of up to 20 sound recordings and any associated literary, pictorial, or graphic works contained on a music album.

Based on commenters’ input, the Office has announced this new application specifically for GRAM claims within the existing system. The final rule expands the registration options available to register multiple musical works distributed together as a single piece through one electronic registration application. Commenters proposed using the term “release” instead of the current “album” to ensure that the rule is flexible enough to accommodate streaming services or other distribution models. This would be stated as “a collection of two or more sound recordings or other media that are grouped together as those terms are used in the Copyright Act.”

Each registration filing is a separate process that requires a separate fee. Thus the easiest and cheapest method of registering an album is as a whole, provided all the sound recordings have the same author and ownership.

Copyright registration is one of the most important steps in protecting your music and lyrics because, unless you register your song with the U.S. Copyright Office, you can't file an infringement suit in federal court. Conversely, applying to protect songs individually may improve the protections provided to an artist and allow them to recover more damages if multiple songs are infringed.

The Copyright Registration Process and Applicable Fees

Copyright registration is a formal procedure to join the public record of copyright with the U.S. Copyright office and receive a certificate confirming your copyright. Your copyright registration is effective on the date it is recorded.

Copyright registration requires three things:

  1. A completed application form. Submissions can be online or mailed.
  2. A filing fee for online forms or paper forms. Online applications cost less ($45) and process faster compared to mailed applications ($125).
  3. Copies of the work you are registering.

Before registering your work, be sure to confirm the number of copies you need to deposit and check to see if there are special deposit requirements for the type of work you want to register. Deposited copies are not given back.

Copyright via Online Platform

Basic copyrights to register online include copyrights for;

  • literary works,
  • visual arts works,
  • performing arts works,
  • sound recordings,
  • motion pictures.

The U.S. Copyright Office's website has a variety of forms to complete the registration of various works such as literary works, visual arts works, performing arts works, sound recordings, and single serials.

Registration Follow-Up Here are the three possible responses for your registration:
  1. Follow up questions from the registration office can come in the form of a letter, email, or phone.
  2. Rejected applications receive a letter explaining detailing the reasons for rejection.
  3. Successful registrations are followed by a certificate of registration in the mail. A certificate for the same comes 3-9 months after processing your application.

Enforcing Copyright Infringement

Even though some level of protection is automatic, it is generally a good idea to register musical works. Registration increases an artist’s rights and allows them to bring a lawsuit to enforce their ownership over the work if someone uses the composition without the artist’s permission.

This copyright rule can protect an Artist's original music beyond the basic protections automatically granted to them when it is secure in a format where other people can hear it. When this option becomes available, the instructions for completing the application, along with resources and guides, will be located on the Copyright Office GRAM page.

Most copyright infringements are civil matters pursued in federal courts. However, when you have registered your work with the Copyright Office and have potential or proven criminal copyright infringements, or have filed a complaint with the court alleging that a defendant’s conduct meets the statutory definition of criminal infringement, the attention of the U.S. Department of Justice is required.

If you expect a possible dispute because of infringement, the Copyright Office cannot provide referrals or a list of attorneys. However, they suggest consulting an attorney who specializes in intellectual property, arts, or entertainment law matters.
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