Manage for Success: Protecting Intellectual Property, Part 1 (Newsletter #13, May 2002)

Welcome to Newsletter #13: Protecting Your Intellectual Property, Part 1.

I've come across quite a few record labels recently who've neglected to protect some or all of their intellectual property in a timely fashion.

As a record label your recordings are your lifeblood and a significant part of your heritage. Therefore, you'll need to establish your rightful ownership, and will want to protect the recorded performance as commercially released, as well as the packaging artwork that is unique to this release. Do this by filing samples and paperwork with the Register of Copyright in the Library of Congress.

Copyright registration is signified by the use of a circle (P) -- for the recorded performance -- and circle (C) -- for the unique art work -- with the year of release, followed by the name of the copyright owner. It's usually located on the inlay card and on the CD, LP, or cassette label, and frequently on the CD booklet.

Small to medium size labels will have someone in their production or business affairs department handle this task. Larger labels may have someone whose sole job this may be. But if you're very small, you may want to do it yourself.

Copyright registration can be done by filing a Form SR (for Sound Recording) with the Register of Copyrights. The form and instructions can be obtained from their web site:

Be sure to download a copy of Circular 56, "Copyright Registration for Sound Recordings," which includes instructions for filling out the form. You might also want to download Circular 1, "Copyright Basics." Both are available in either text or PDF form.

The U.S. Copyright Office defines Sound Recordings as "works that result from the fixation of a series of musical, spoken, or other sounds, but not including accompanying a motion picture or other audiovisual work." The Form SR "is for registration of published or unpublished sound recordings, that is, for the registration of the particular sounds or recorded performance."

To register, you'll send the form, plus two filled-in copies of the recording as first published, along with a check for $30.00 payable to the "Register of Copyrights" to:

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

Check the rate at their web site since it's expected to be raised sometime after June 30th of this year.

As a result of the recent anthrax scare many mailed submissions were delayed or partially destroyed as a result of irradiation. To be on the safe side you may prefer to send your materials via FedEx, Airborne, or United Parcel Service.


Solutions Unlimited has helped many of its clients by auditing their files to be sure that they've properly protected their intellectual property. Why not consider having us do the same thing for you. We have decades of experience planning, budgeting, and fixing record industry management problems.

We especially like to work with start-ups.

Don't hesitate to call us to discuss your particular situation and how we can help you.


Registration takes a while -- usually from four to five months up to a year -- but if by any chance you've made an error in filling out the form, you'll get a call from the Copyright Office requesting clarification, or they may return the form indicating what needs to be corrected.

It's a good idea to file for registration as soon as possible after you've released the record. I recommend you list this responsibility as an item in your production documentation check list, noting when the completed form, samples, and checks were sent to the Copyright Office. You should also keep track of the open registration in a "ticker" or "suspense" file. When you receive the registered document back from Washington, you should note that on your check list, including the date received.

Be sure to keep the completed, registered document in a secure location, since the registered Form SR is evidence of your ownership of the recording. Its greatest importance is that it grants explicit protection under the law, and provides leverage through a large statutory penalty if you have to sue an unlicensed user of your copyright.


If you have a topic you'd like me to discuss in a future newsletter, please feel free to email

I welcome your suggestions and feedback.


If you're a songwriter who wants to protect a work not made for hire, or have a music publishing company, you'll want to protect the work as written. To do that you'll use a Form PA -- for Performing Arts:

You file for this registration just like the SR form. Send the Form, along with your check for $30.00 (see comment above regarding possible raise in fee) payable to the "Register of Copyrights," two (if published -- one if not yet published) complete copies of the "best edition" of the composition to the same address given above. You can send either a lead sheet or sheet music.

If you're the author of the songs, and also the owner of the sound recording, you can protect both at the same time by properly filling in the SR Form. You won't need to file a PA Form as well, then.

If you've granted your publishing rights to your record label (and if that's what you truly want to do) be sure they -- as the publisher -- protect the songs you've written by their filing the PA Forms. It's key to proving your interest in them.

In the event your copyright assets grow large and administration of publishing becomes too much of a burden, consider having an established, trusted publisher administer them for you, for a fee, of course. Feel free to contact me for recommendations, however a small administrator/publisher I can heartily recommend is Trace Elements/Shrub Music:

Inasmuch as there's a real climate of theft on the part of some unscrupulous labels, and many music lovers who feel they have a right to get music for free, be sure to protect your ownership of your recordings and copyrights.

Part 2 will be emailed next month.

Copyright 2002 by Keith Holzman, Solutions Unlimited. All rights reserved.