Sound Recording Laws

Where You Need a Lawyer:

(This may not be the same place you live)

At No Cost! 

 Can Sound Recordings Be Copyrighted?

Yes. There are three groups of parties interested in this:

  1. Composers
  2. Producers
  3. Performers

These groups each have a unique level of legal protection.

What Legal Rights Do Sound Recording Owners Have?

They are only allowed to stop literal duplicates. Therefore, they do not have the authority to prevent others from openly executing the work. The ability to prevent others from duplicating the work or creating derivative works is only granted to make literal copies.

What rights a person has in relation to a copyrighted sound recording is specifically defined in the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 USCA 114(b).

Music, sound effects, and spoken narrations can all be used in sound recordings. Duplication or duplication of a sound recording in a way that either directly or indirectly replicates the audio from the original sound recording is permitted under copyright laws.

Music copyrights usually deal with:

  1. Creating a derivative work by rearranging, remixing, or otherwise changing the original audio recording
  2. Distributing any copies, duplicates, or derivatives of the original sound recording for commercial gain, as well as staging a public performance using digital audio transmissions.

What Rights in a Sound Recording Do You Not Have?

What rights a person does not have in relation to a sound recording are also outlined in the Copyright Act of 1976. Duplication of another sound recording that mimics or copies the original sound recording is among the actions that do not violate its copyright.

Creating a work that mimics or duplicates a sound recording protected by copyright.

Distributing any copies of a sound recording is by copyright, as well as using it in instructional television or radio broadcasts.

What Are Copyrights in Music?

The author of a song can use music copyrights to prevent their creations from being bought, sold, given away, played, or produced without their permission. To obtain a copyright, a song’s owner often must register the music with the American Copyright Office. Without a copyright, a song could be used without the owner’s consent.

What Legal Problems Arise With Music Copyright?

Copyrights are a central topic in a wide range of intellectual property disputes, including:

  • Record agreements: In some record agreements, tracks with copyright protection must only be used or sold by one record label.
  • Payment of royalties: Every time a song is played, record labels and radio stations are required to pay a nominal fee to the music’s owner. They are referred to as royalties. Before royalties may be collected, the song must be copyrighted.
  • Infringement: Unauthorized use of songs protected by copyright is known as infringement and may give rise to legal action as well as possible criminal charges.
  • Public performances: Copyrights also specify who is and is not permitted to perform the song for pay in public.

The Owner’s Rights Regarding Copyright

The sole copyright owner retains the right to: Reproduce the Work, which includes the ability to manufacture copies of the work, such as by burning copyrighted audio recordings to CDs.

The right to share and sell copies of the work is known as “distribute copies of the work.”

Owners of songwriting rights, but not those of sound recording rights, may permit the public performance of their compositions. A song is often performed where people can hear it, such as in a nightclub, live performance space, radio, television, or in public spaces like stores or elevators.

Congress has added a new right that allows copyright owners to perform a work via digital audio transmission. Digital audio transmissions can involve streaming a song online or using satellite radio (such as XM or Sirius).

All of the aforementioned cannot be done without the owner of the copyright’s consent or authority (often provided in a license). The period of copyright protection for works released after January 1, 1978, is equal to the author’s life plus 70 years. The copyright covers the author’s lifetime and 70 years after their passing.

The Two Types of Copyrights for Music

There are two types of copyrights for music

Recordings of Sound
Simply put, a sound recording is a piece of art made out of recorded sounds. A sound recording is, for instance, the audio of a song that is included on a compact CD.

Musical Works (also known as “Songs” or “Musical Compositions”)
One or both of a song’s lyrics and music may be protected by copyright.

What Distinguishes Copyrights for Musical Works from those for Sound Recordings?

One or more writers may own recordings and musical works, which are independent copyrighted works.

A sound recording is a recording of the song being performed; a musical piece, or song, often has a melody and lyrics (though this is not always the case).

When a songwriter writes the music and lyrics for a song and Madonna recordings it and puts it on a new album, the songwriter is the owner of the copyrights to the musical composition (because she wrote the music and lyrics to the song).

Copyrights to the song’s sound recording, which is included on the compact disc, are still held by Madonna or, more likely, her record label.

What Do You Have to Prove for Sound Recording Copyright Infringement?

If someone violates your rights as the owner of a copyright or an exclusive license to a copyright, it is considered a copyright infringement.

You must demonstrate that you are the owner of a legitimate copyright or exclusive license to a right in a copyright for a sound recording in order to successfully sue another person for copyright infringement against your copyrighted sound recording.

If you are not the creator of the sound recording, you can accomplish this by presenting a chain of title that demonstrates how you obtained a copyright or an exclusive license to a copyright.

The copyrighted audio recording was used by someone else without your consent.

Can the Copyright be Applied to Every Component of the Sound Recording?

There are two components of a sound recording.

The foundational musical composition comes first. The real sound recording comes afterward.

If the sound recording uses a composition, it is possible that more than one author contributed to it, making it a cooperative effort. The tape’s creator would only be regarded as a producer if the recording included other non-musical noises like bird songs or ocean waves.

What Remedies Are Offered for Sound Recording Copyright Infringement?

If a case alleging infringement of a sound recording’s copyright is successful, the following remedies may be available:

  • Injunctions, which state that a court will order the offender to halt,
  • Orders of seizure, which instruct a court to order the removal of any of the violator’s property that was involved in the infringement,
  • Money from economic losses or monetary damages
  • Actual damages, typically related to the expense of copyright infringement defense, or
  • Statutory penalties with a $30,000 to $150,000 range.

Should I Get Legal Advice on My Copyright Issue?

For copyright registration, precise and detailed rules must be followed. You can get assistance from a knowledgeable copyright lawyer to meet all the deadlines and specifications.

A lawyer can also help you through the challenging and exact procedural requirements for litigation while pursuing your legal interests if you have a copyright infringement concern. Use LegalMatch to find a lawyer today.

Law Library Disclaimer


16 people have successfully posted their cases

Find a Lawyer