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This is a copy of Circular 56a from the United States Copyright Office. You can also view and download this as a PDF File.

Related documents:
FL 105: Copyright Registration of Music
Circular 50: Copyright Registration for Musical Compositions
Circular 56: Copyright Registration for Sound Recordings
Circular 7d: Mandatory Deposit of Copies or Phonorecords for the Library of Congress
Form PA
Form PA with instructions
Short Form PA
Form SR
Form SR with instructions

Copyright Registration for Musical Compositions and Sound Recordings

This circular explains the difference, for copyright purposes, between Musical Compositions and Sound Recordings.

A Musical Composition consists of music, including any accompanying words, and is normally registered in Class PA. The author of a musical composition is generally the composes, and the lyricist, if any. A musical composition may be in the form of a notated copy (for example, sheet music) or in the form of a phonorecord (for example, cassette tape, LP, or CD). Sending a musical composition in the form of a phonorecord does not necessarily mean that there is a claim to copyright in the sound recording.

A Sound Recording results from the fixation of a series of musical, spoken, or other sounds and is always registered in Class SR. The author of a sound recording is the performer(s) whose performance is fixed, or the record producer who processes the sounds and fixes them in the final recording, or both.

Copyright in a sound recording is not the same as, or a substitute for, copyright in the underlying musical composition.

Registration of a Musical Composition and a Sound Recording With a Single Application

Although they are separate works, a musical composition and a sound recording may be registered together on a single application if ownership of the copyright in both is exactly the same. To register a single claim in both works, complete Form SR. Give information about the author(s) of both the musical composition and the sound recording.

Use this Chart to Help Choose the Appropriate Form for Copyright Registration

Points to Note:

NOTE: Phonorecords (tapes, cassette tapes, cartridges, disks) are not sound recordings.

Phonorecords are physical objects in which various kinds of works can be fixed -- the works themselves may be musical compositions, literary works, dramatic works, or sound recordings

What should

be deposited:

What is being registered:


Form to use:


How to describe "Nature of Authorship" in Space 2

Published in the United States*


1. Song or other musical composition


Music and words OR Music

2 complete copies (if published in a notated copy) OR 1 phonorecord (if published only on a disk or cassette)

1 complete copy (lead sheet, etc.) or phonorecord (disk or cassette)

2. Sound Recording Only


Sound Recording

2 complete phonorecords

1 complete phonorecord

3. Musical Composition and Sound Recording


Music and Sound Recording OR Music, Words, and Sound Recording

2 complete phonorecords

1 complete phonorecord

NOTE: To make a single registration, copyright ownership in the musical composition and in the sound recording must be the same.
*For foreign publications, one copy or phonorecord of either the first published edition or the best edition.

Registration Procedures

To register your work, send the following materials in the same envelope or package to:

Library of Congress
Copyright Office
101 Independence Avenue, S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20599-6000
  1. A properly completed application form
  2. A nonreturnable, clearly labeled deposit(s) of the work to be registered and
  3. A nonrefundable filing fee of $30** for each application

**NOTE: Registration filing fees are effective through June 30, 2002. For information on the fee changes, please write the Copyright Office, check the Copyright Office Website at www.loc.gov/copyright, or call (202) 707-3000.

Effective Date of Registration

A copyright registration is effective on the date the Copyright Office receives all the required elements in acceptable form, regardless of how long it then takes to process the application and mail the certificate of registration. The time the Copyright Office requires to process an application varies, depending on the amount of material the Office is receiving.

If you apply for copyright registration, you will not receive an acknowledgment that your application has been received (the Office receives more than 600,000 applications annually), but you can expect

Requests to have certificates available for pickup in the Public Information Office or to have certificates sent by Federal Express or another mail service cannot be honored.

If you want to know the date that the Copyright Office receives your material, send it by registered or certified mail and request a return receipt.

For More Information

To speak to an information specialist, call (202) 707-3000 (TTY: (202) 707-6737), Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., eastern time, excluding federal holidays. Recorded information is available 24 hours a day. Order forms and other publications from:

Library of Congress
Copyright Office
Publications Section, LM-455
101 Independence Avenue, S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20559-6000

or call the Forms and Publications Hotline 24 hours a day at (202) 707-9100. Most circulars (but not forms) are available via fax. Call (202) 707-2600 from a touchtone phone and follow the prompts. Access and download circulars, forms, and other information from the Copyright Office website at http://www.loc.gov/copyright.

REV: June 1999




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