A sound recording and the music, lyrics, words, or other underlying content embodied in that recording are separate works. For example, the song “Amazing Grace” and a recording of Aretha Franklin singing “Amazing Grace” are two distinct works. The song itself (i.e., the music and lyrics) is a “musical work.” A recording of that song performed by a particular artist is a “sound recording.”
A registration (draft) for a sound recording covers the performance and production authorship involved in creating that recording, but does not cover the music, lyrics, words, or other underlying content embodied in that recording. Likewise, a registration for a musical work covers the music and lyrics embodied in that composition, and a registration for a dramatic work or a literary work covers the text and music embodied in that work, but it does not cover a particular recording of those works.
An applicant may use one application to register a sound recording together with a musical work, a dramatic work, or a literary work if the recording and the music, lyrics, words, or other underlying content are embodied in the same phonorecord and if the claimant owns the copyright in both works. If the copyright in the sound recording and the underlying content are owned by different parties, a separate application and filing fee must be submitted for each work.
It also may be possible to register multiple sound recordings together with the music, lyrics, words, or other underlying content embodied in each recording if the recordings and the underlying content is owned by the same claimant and if they were packaged or physically bundled together as a single unit and first published on the same date. This is known as the unit of publication option.
Sound recordings are often created by multiple performers and/or producers as joint authors. For example, a recording of a song might be jointly authored by the members of a band, or a singer and producer might be joint authors of the recording, depending on the authors’ intent.
Generally, where there are multiple authors of a sound recording, the sound recording is a joint work and the applicant should name all the authors of that work. In such cases, the authors’ contributions are not subject to separate registrations.
There may be instances, however, where different tracks of a sound recording were created as independent works, such as when a preexisting beat track is sampled in a song. In such cases, the beat track and the sound recording of the song should be registered separately — one as a derivative of the other.