How do I register a copyright for my performance of a cover song?

October 25, 2011

Dear Music Lawyer,

I recorded an album with 10 of my own songs and 1 cover song. I'm going to obtain a mechanical license for the cover song from Limelight or Harry Fox Agency. Can I use the Form SR for the sound recording and performance only since the publisher owns the copyright to the song?


Dear Jon,

Good question. You are correct that you would not be registering the copyright in the underlying song that you are "covering," but rather only the copyright in your recorded performance of that song. To claim copyright ownership of the sound recording and performance only, you would use a Form SR (or select "Sound Recording" from the pull-down list if you are filing online).

If you wrote the other 10 songs by yourself and own those 10 recordings by yourself, then you could register those 10 songs (including the sound recording/performance of those 10 songs) on a single copyright application. You could then file a separate application (Form SR) for the cover song in which you could claim copyright only in your sound recording and performance.

In the alternative, you could complete one Form SR for all 11 recordings on the album and one Form PA for the 10 songs that you wrote for the album.

As you correctly stated, you will also need to obtain a mechanical license from the publisher of the cover song to legally reproduce and distribute the underlying song.

Good job!

—Amy E. Mitchell is maintained by experienced Austin music lawyer Amy E. Mitchell. Please feel free to ask any music law related questions. You will be notified by email when your question has been selected for response, and the response will be posted on this site.

Please note that no responses are guaranteed, and responses provided on this site do not constitute legal advice and may be edited or removed at any time. The purpose of is solely to educate and inform musicians and music professionals about legal issues in the music industry. Accordingly, any posted responses are merely intended to give you general legal insight in order to point you in the right direction.