Form PA or Form SR??
When registering your copyright, you know that it already exists and you own it, just by getting the song out of your head and onto paper/tape/video. Registration with your copyright office serves the sole purpose of being able to secure the chance to defend those rights in court if need be.
But which registration form should you use? To make it a little less complex we’ll start off with handling just music in form of songs and albums. Music as part of another work like a movie or commercial will be discussed at another time.
Regarding music, there are just two forms that you need to take into consideration, Form PA (performing arts) and Form SR (sound recordings).
If you only want to register the composition of a song, including the lyrics, you use From PA.
This is mandatory for musical works, including lyrics, dramatic works including music, pantomimes and choreographical works as well as motion pictures or other audiovisual works.
If you want to register a sound recording, even if it’s just a crude demo, you’ll have to use Form SR.
Here’s the good news, if you want to register the composition as well as a sound recording, you DON’T need to use both forms, IF the person(s) filing for copyright registration is/are EXACTLY the same in BOTH cases.
And HOW DO YOU ACUTALLY REGISTER??
If you’re in the U.S., you use eCO, which is a governmental online service that allows you to register basic copyright claims, like initial registration. If you need to register for renewals, corrections or similar, you’ll have to use pen and paper.
You can register a single piece of work or a collection of works, if the involved parties (if not a single person) are exactly the same for all songs. The latter would definitely save you a lot of money, but if you share copyright with a bunch of different people on different projects, you have to use multiple forms.
To register your claim with the U.S. Copyright office using the eCO online service you just have to follow three simple steps.
Complete an application
Pay the associated fee
Submit your work
Some works can be deposited electronically, but others have to be submitted with a hard copy via traditional mail.
If, for example, your piece of work has not been published, or only electronically (online), you can register with eCO using electronic deposit copies.
The electronic processing currently takes 3-5 month. While waiting you can always check the status of your claim(s) with the eCO online service on your Case Summary page.
In Germany, there’s no such thing as copyright registration. To defend your claim in court, you have to prove that you are the originator of the concerning piece of work, which you can do by depositing your work with a notary. The notary’s records will function as public proof of your authorship.
When running your business as a DIY musician, the bureaucratic part can be really tedious. Gathering all the necessary information takes time, at least if you care about the reliability of your sources. The information given in this article is derived from governmental sources. Those are open to the public, but not too easy to digest if you never had to get in touch with law lingo before.