Copyrights, Trademarks and General Music Business Information
For a more detailed description, go to Getting Started in the Music Business.
The Library of Congress handles all copyright applications through the Copyright Office. Beginning in mid-2008, the most current form for song registration is online Form CO, although the old forms for song registration - Form PA (Performing Arts) and Form SR (Sound Recording) - may still be requested and used.
Advantages of filing a copyright registration using online Form CO include:
- Lower filing fee of $55 for a basic claim;
- Fastest processing time;
- Online status tracking;
- secure payment by credit or debit card, electronic check, or Copyright Office deposit account;
- the ability to upload recordings directly into eCO as electronic files.
The two alternate methods to the online Form CO application for song registration include:
1) Registration with Fill-In Form CO
The next best option for registering basic claims is the new fill-in Form CO, which replaces Forms PA and SR. Using 2-D barcode scanning technology, the Office can process these forms much faster and more efficiently than paper forms completed manually. Simply complete Form CO on your personal computer, print it out, and mail it along with a check or money order and your deposit. The fee for a basic registration on Form CO is $55.
2) Registration with Paper Forms
Paper versions of Form PA (performing arts works, including motion pictures); Form SR (sound recordings) are still available. The fee for a basic registration using one of these forms is $85 payable by check or money order. Form CON (continuation sheet for applications) is also still available in paper. These paper forms are not accessible on the Copyright Office website; however, staff will send them to you by postal mail upon request.
Remember that online registration through eCO and fill-in Form CO (see above) can be used for the categories of works applicable to Forms PA and SR. Form eCO was created in 2008 to replace and consolidate forms PA and SR. For personal assistance call (202) 707-3000 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. CST.
If you want to determine the copyright ownership of a specific musical work, you can search the Library of Congress' online registration catalog for works registered since 1978. Contact the Library of Congress at (202) 707-6850 for additional information and fees.
To determine the current publisher of a song, contact the Research and Information Department of BMI at (212) 586-2000 or ASCAP's Clearance Express (ACE) at (212) 621-6160. You must know the song title and name of the songwriter(s) prior to contacting either of these performing rights organizations. Publishing information for some of the songs contained in their repertoire is available online.
Mike Doyle, Membership Relations
2 Music Square West, Nashville, TN 37203
(615) 742-5000; (800) 492-7227, (800) 910-7347; fax (615) 742-5020
Mark Mason, Director of Writer/Publisher Relations
10 Music Square East, Nashville, TN 37203
(615) 401-2000; fax (615) 401-2707
Tim Fink, Associate Vice President, Writer/Publisher Relations
55 Music Square East
Nashville, TN 37203
(615) 320-0055; fax (615) 321-6290
If you are a publisher (representing songwriters whose work has been licensed by record labels, online music services, ringtone companies, etc.) and are interested in affiliating with an agency to collect your mechanical royalties, or are a record company or other licensee that would like to request a license, contact:
Harry Fox Agency
711 Third Avenue, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10017
(212) 834-0100; fax (212) 953-2384
Harry Fox Agency en Español has answers to frequently asked questions regarding HFA and music licensing, along with a direct email, firstname.lastname@example.org, which goes directly to the company's Latin Licensing agents.
Contacto e español:
To request a license, contact the Client Services Department at (212) 834-0100. Additional organizations and businesses administer song catalogs; contact the Texas Music Office for a list of other administrators.
Digital Performance Royalties
SoundExchange is the first organization designated by the U.S. Copyright Office to collect digital performance royalties for featured recording artists, sound recording copyright owners (SRCOs) and non-featured artists when their sound recordings are performed on cable, Internet (non-interactive streaming) and satellite radio.
SoundExchange is an independent nonprofit performance rights organization that currently represents over 800 record companies, their 3000+ labels and thousands of artists united in receiving a fair price for the licensing of their music in a new digital world. Members include both signed and unsigned recording artists and small, medium and large independent record companies, as well as the major label groups and artist-owned labels. For membership information and a step-by-step guide on how to join, please go to http://soundexchange.com/
1330 Connecticut Avenue, Northwest Suite 330
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 828-0120; fax: (202) 833-2141
The ISRC (International Standard Recording Code) is the international identification system for sound recordings and music video recordings. Each ISRC is a unique and permanent identifier for a specific recording which can be permanently encoded into a product as its digital fingerprint. Encoded ISRC provide the means to automatically identify recordings for royalty payments.
The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) recommends that all music producers use ISRC. The ISRC system is the key to royalty collection for recordings in the digital information age.
ISRC can be put into operation without requiring special investment in equipment or technologies. For further information about the ISRC system, please contact:
1025 F Street NW, 10th Floor
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 775-0101, Fax: (202) 775-7253
isrc [at] riaa.com
Point of contact: Erik Liederbach
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) is the federal office that grants trademarks (such as to band names, instrument names, company names, etc.). A trademark protects a name, a design or a logo for goods and services.
To register a nationwide trademark, download an application from the PTO website at http://uspto.gov. You can also order an application from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by calling (703) 308-9000 or (800) 786-9199. Ask for their brochure entitled, Basic Facts About Registering a Trademark. The brochure includes the application forms and all the necessary information on registering your service mark and/or trademark. The application must include: a drawing of the word or symbol being trademarked; three examples of its use (such as newspaper clippings or a press release); the completed application form; a self-addressed stamped envelope for return receipt of your serial number; and the $375 fee.
You can now research whether or not your band/company name is available to be trademarked by accessing TESS, the Trademark Electronic Search System.
The Texas trademark procedure mirrors the federal process, except that you may not register a Texas trademark until you have actually used the mark in business, and the fee is $50. To order the application forms for Texas trademark registration, contact the Secretary of State at (512) 463-5576 or (800) 735-2989, or download the forms from the office website at http://www.sos.state.tx.us/corp/trademark.shtml.
Note: While you are waiting for approval of your mark, document your use of the band's name through club listings, advertising, and any other evidence of your usage. Keeping a record will help you establish your rights in the name prior to official registration.
You can search federally registered trademarks at the following Patent and Trademark Depository
libraries (searches must be done in person; this system does not include state, international or unregistered marks):
University of Texas at Austin, McKinney Engineering Library 512-495-4511
Texas A&M University, Evans Library, College Station 979-845-5741
Dallas Public Library, Central Branch, 214-670-1468
Texas Tech University Library, Lubbock 806-742-2282
Rice University, Fondren Library, Houston 713-348-5483
You may file a request to receive an Assumed Name Certificate (also referred to as filing a DBA, i.e., Doing Business As) at any one of the 254 county courthouses in Texas. To apply, contact the County Clerk’s office in the county in which you maintain an office. If your business does not have an office, then you must file a DBA in every county in which you do business.
The Texas Office of the Secretary of State is the agency which grants charters for the following types of business entities: Corporations, professional associations, limited partnerships, limited liability companies, registered limited liability partnerships, non-profit corporations, and assumed names for those entities. The Secretary of State also registers state trademarks and service marks.
For more information, contact:
Office of the Secretary of State
Statutory Filings Division
P.O. Box 13697, Austin, TX 78711
Applications for a Universal Product Code (also called Bar Codes) are obtained through contacting
7887 Washington Village Drive, Suite 300, Dayton, OH 45459
(937) 435-3870; fax (937) 435-7317.
The fee is determined by the number of unique products a company needs to identify and as well as gross sales revenue. The Council assigns only the first six digits of your UPC; applicants are responsible for assigning the remaining five digits, and for having their bar codes printed.
The Comptroller of Public Accounts is the state agency which licenses businesses to collect sales tax on the purchase of retail goods sold within Texas. The Comptroller has 33 field offices in Texas; check the blue pages of your local telephone directory for the office closest to you. For information: (800) 252-5555.