July 2010

Spotlight On…   Music Copyright

Registering Copyright for Musical Composition and Performance

To be legally protected, a music composition must be in a tangible format, for example, written as a score or recorded on a tape or disk. Protection begins at creation, but is greatly strengthened through registration of the work at the U.S. Copyright Office of the Library of Congress. Information circulars are available online; of particular interest to composers are:

Copyright forms can be downloaded from the Web.

Additional helpful information and links may be found at the Copyright Resource Center of the Music Publishers' Association and the Music Copyright Pages of the University of Washington.

Licensing and Marketing Musical Compositions

Many licensing and performance agreements are handled through ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and the Harry Fox Agency. More information and additional links are in the Library's Music section of Sites by Subject.

Practical advice on the music business, including licensing and marketing, is offered in many books at the Library. To find these titles in the Library Catalog, use these selected subject headings:

Library staff have compiled a list of helpful books in the brochure, Making It in the Music Business.

Music Copyright in the News

Musical compositions have always been protected by copyright, but this arm of the law has been stretched by recent cases. The most famous litigation is the Napster case, in which A&M Music argued against the right of Napster to permit unauthorized downloading of music files.

Full information on court cases related to music copyright, including the Napster case (USPQ2nd 57:1729), is published weekly in the United States Patents Quarterly, available in the Information and Reference Department.