Copyright Registration Fees Increasing

Copyright Registration Fees Increasing

Every few years, the U.S. Copyright Office does a detailed study on its fees in an attempt to determine whether they need adjusting. In their latest audit, the office decided it was time to raise its rates by about $10 for most electronic filings. 

The fee for official copyright registration is about to go up. Every three to five years, the U.S. Copyright Office does an in-depth study of its fees to determine whether to adjust them, then sends its results to Congress, which then has 120 days to do nothing (meaning approval) or pass a law disapproving the price recommendations. 

The Office is now proposing raising the fee for the Standard Application from $55 to $65, which is $10 less than the 2018 proposal. Similarly, the Single Application (the lower-priced option for single works by individual authors) will go from $35 to $45, which is also $10 less than the 2018 proposal. 

Here’s the proposal as it pertains to music: 

REGISTRATION TYPE                       CURRENT PRICE       PROPOSED PRICE 
Single work (e-filing)                             $35                              $45 
Single work (paper filing)                      $85                              $125 
Group of works (album:e-filing only).    $55                              $65 

Copyright registration isn't mandatory, but it is a wise thing to do! Copyrights are the most valuable asset in the music industry. Plus, you do have to register in order to file a claim with the Copyright Office as proposed by the CASE Act (copyright small claims).

Copyright Basics 

Original and Fixed Works 

Copyright law has existed in the United States since the country's inception in the late 1700s. The US Constitution included provisions that gave Congress the power to enact laws to protect the writings of authors. Copyright law has evolved over the years as technology has given us new mechanisms for disseminating works of authorship, but the basic concept behind it has remained the same—to give authors (for our purposes, songwriters and recording artists) the right to control access to their creative works. As we'll see, this controlled access allows creators to be compensated for the use of their works; in turn, it provides the incentive to create. 

Copyright protects the expression of ideas rather than the ideas themselves. There are two elements that determine whether something falls under copyright: 

• Originality. The work must be original. The creator does not have the burden of researching whether there is anything in existence that could be similar to what they created, but their creation may not copied from something already in existence, either consciously or subconsciously. 

• Fixed. The work must be fixed in a tangible form such that it can be perceived visually or with the aid of a machine or device. Playing music live for someone would lack that fixed element. An easy test of whether the work is fixed is if you can make and share a copy of the work (e.g., a piece of paper, a CD, an MP3 file) with someone else. 

Copyright ownership and protection begin at the moment the original work is fixed. The owner controls the six exclusive rights and, like any piece of property, the works can be sold, given away, inherited, or licensed. 

Two Separate Copyrights 

A sound recording embodies two separate copyrights. 

The Rights in the Song Composition 

Copyright in the song composition protects the combination of aspects like the melody, harmony, and lyrics. One way to conceptualize this is to think about the song composition as what is included on a piece of sheet music. It provides the basic melody and establishes the fundamental character of the work. When identifying the rights owners in a sound recording, ownership of the song composition is represented by the © symbol . 

The © symbol is used broadly to represent any copyrighted material, identifying the copyright owner for a poem, book, photograph, artwork, or photograph. Only when examining the rights of a recorded song, we focus on the © to represent the composition rights and the ℗ to represent the sound recording rights. 

The Rights in the Sound Recording 

Copyrights in the sound recording are created each time the song composition is recorded. Each performance will be original and, when recorded, fixed in a tangible format. When identifying the rights owners in a sound recording, ownership in a particular sound recording is represented by the ℗ symbol. 

Federal copyright in sound recordings is a relatively new right in the US. The 1976 Copyright Act established that sound recordings created after February 15, 1972, would be covered by federal copyright statute but songs recorded before that date would remain under state law or common law in the absence of state copyright law. 

If you are recording a song or composition that is in the public domain, you cannot re-copyright the composition as your own. You may only copyright your original sound recording. 

Current U.S. copyright law provides for six exclusive rights of all copyright holders. 

The Six Exclusive Rights 

Under US copyright law, in the absence of an agreement stating otherwise, the creator or creators of an original work own and control the six exclusive rights provided under the law from the moment the work is fixed in a tangible format. Copyright law covers a broad selection of creative works, so the six rights will be applied in different ways for different forms of creativity. 

For music, the six exclusive rights generally apply as follows: 

1. the Right to Reproduce the Work in Copies or Phonorecords - The right to reproduce a work includes making photocopies, digital copies, and physical copies (e.g., records, cassettes, CDs). It even includes using a part of a pre-existing song or sound recording in a new work if the copied part is substantial and material. 

2. the Right to Control the Making of Derivative Works Based upon the Copyrighted Work - A derivative work is when material from one or more pre-existing works is incorporated into a new work. Some examples of derivative works are samples, interpolations, and remixes. 

3.  the Right to Distribute Copies of the Work to the Public - The right to distribution encompasses any form of public dissemination of copyrighted works, whether in physical or digital form, such as offering them for sale, rent, or lease. This right is limited by the “first sale doctrine;” essentially, once a copy of the work has been sold, the distributor no longer has complete control over what happens to that copy. 

4. Any public performance of a song composition requires the permission of the copyright owner. The difficulty of monitoring this necessitates Performing Rights Organizations (in the US, these are ASCAP, BMI, GMR, and SESAC - Also CCLI for ministry music). Most public performances of music are authorized by copyright owners through their affiliation with performing rights organizations.the Right to Control the Public Performance of the Musical Composition - Copyright law defines a public performance as one that occurs “at a place open to the public or at a place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances are gathered.” This includes live performances and live or pre-recorded broadcast performances. 

5.  the Right to Control the Public Display of the Work - The circumstances under which this right would come into play are limited; for example, it would affect the visual display of sheet music in a store or museum. 

6. the Right to Control the Digital Audio Public Performance of the Sound Recording - The public performance of a sound recording is a relatively new but narrowly defined right. It is limited to digital audio broadcasts, i.e. satellite radio and streaming. The performance rights organization that monitors these plays is SoundExchange. We’ll cover this in more detail in lesson 10. 

Under copyright, an artist's right to use their work includes the right to restrict others from using the work the same way (thus the exclusive nature of the rights). A creator may choose (at their sole discretion) to not distribute their work, and they can prevent others from doing the same if they please. 

You should also  know that each of the exclusive rights is independently divisible, meaning that a copyright owner can sell his right to copy to one person while licensing his right to publicly perform a work to someone else.

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