Third edition of USA copyright office compendium – common types of derivative sound recordings

Additional sounds that have been added to a preexisting sound recording may be registered if there is a sufficient amount of creative and original sound recording authorship in the new sounds.

A remix is a recombination and manipulation of audio tracks or channels from a preexisting sound recording to produce a new or modified sound recording. Remixing from multi-track sources generally is a sufficient basis for a copyright claim in a derivative sound recording. Likewise, if a producer and/or engineer is able to manipulate a number of variables and make creative judgments or decisions in determining the outcome of the new recording, there is usually a sufficient basis for a copyright claim.

However, the registration specialist will communicate with the applicant to clarify a claim in a remix from monaural or stereophonic sources, because in such cases it is unlikely that there was sufficient derivative authorship. In all cases, the remixing of preexisting sound recordings must be lawful to be copyrightable (i.e., authorized or permissible by law).

The Office may register a claim in copyrightable editorial authorship where an original sound recording is recast, transformed, or adapted with editorial revisions or abridgments of the recorded material such that there is sufficient authorship to constitute a derivative work.

Sampling is the incorporation of a fragment or snippet from a preexisting track into a new track. The Office may register a claim based on new copyrightable sound recording that has been added to the work, but not based on the use of the sample.

For sound recordings, a mashup is a track formed by combining elements from two or more preexisting (often disparate) works. A simple example would be laying a vocal track from one work on top of the instrumental track from another. Usually, the preexisting materials are edited and remixed in order to create a seamless, integrated work. Copyrightable editing / remixing authorship that has been added may support a derivative authorship claim. Mashups that unlawfully employ preexisting sound recordings are not subject to copyright protection.

Where it appears that no new material has been added, there may not be a basis for a claim in a derivative work. For example, in some cases, third party software may be used to generate the mashup through an automated process. This type of contribution does not constitute original, human authorship.

The term “mixtape” may refer to a compilation of preexisting tracks, often based on a particular theme, or may refer to an album containing remixes of preexisting tracks. Copyrightable remix or compilation authorship may support a derivative authorship claim. Mixtapes that unlawfully employ preexisting sound recordings are not subject to copyright protection.

A compilation of sound recordings is a work consisting of preexisting sound recordings that are selected, coordinated, and/or arranged in such a way that the resulting work as a whole constitutes an original work of authorship. A compilation of sound recordings may be copyrightable if there is sufficient creativity in the selection, coordination and/or arrangement of the preexisting recordings.

A re-issue containing previously released or registered sound recordings cannot be registered as a compilation unless the author contributed a sufficient amount of original authorship in selecting or arranging the preexisting sound recordings. For instance, taking all the works by a particular artist and arranging them in chronological order would not be registrable (draft), because there is no creativity in selecting all the artist’s works and putting them in date order.