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?
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.
Amy E. Mitchell