COPYRIGHT & SAMPLE CLEARING
COPYRIGHT LAW OF UNITED STATES
This publication contains the text of title 17 of the United States Code, including all amendments enacted by Congress through June 30, 2016. It includes the Copyright Act of 1976 and all subsequent amendments to copyright law; the Semiconductor Chip Protection Act of 1984, as amended; and the Vessel Hull Design Protection Act, as amended. The Copyright Office is responsible for registering intellectual property claims under all three.
The United States copyright law is contained in chapters 1 through 8 and 10 through 12 of title 17 of the United States Code. The Copyright Act of 1976, which provides the basic framework for the current copyright law, was enacted on October 19, 1976, as Pub. L. No. 94-553, 90 Stat. 2541. The 1976 Act was a comprehensive revision of the copyright law in title 17. Listed below in chronological order of their enactment are the Copyright Act of 1976 and subsequent amendments to title 17.
Chapters 9 and 13 of title 17 contain two types of design protection that are independent of copyright protection. Chapter 9 of title 17 is the Semiconductor Chip Protection Act of 1984 (SCPA), as amended. The SCPA was enacted as title III of Pub. L. No. 98-620, 98 Stat. 3335, 3347, on November 8, 1984. Chapter 13 of title 17 is the Vessel Hull Design Protection Act (VHDPA), as amended. The VHDPA was enacted on October 28, 1998, as title V of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), Pub. L. No. 105-304, 112 Stat. 2860, 2905. Subsequent amendments to the title 17 provisions for SCPA and the VHDPA are also included in the list below, in chronological order of their enactment.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How do I register my copyright?
To register a work, submit a completed application form, and a nonreturnable copy or copies of the work to be registered. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Registration Procedures., and Circular 4, Copyright Office Fees”.
What is the registration Fee?
See Circular 4, Copyright Fees.
Where can I get an application form?
Do I send in my work? Do I get it back?
You must send the required copy or copies of the work to be registered. Your copies will not be returned. If you register online using eCO eService, you may attach an electronic copy of your deposit.
However, even if you register online, if the Library of Congress requires a hard-copy deposit of your work, you must send what the Library defines as the “best edition” of your work. For further information, see Circular 7b, Best Edition of Published Copyrighted Works for the Collection of the Library of Congress, and Circular 7d, Mandatory Deposit of Copies or Phonorecords for the Library of Congress.
Upon their deposit in the Copyright Office, under sections 407 and 408 of the copyright law, all copies and identifying material, including those deposited in connection with claims that have been refused registration, are the property of the U.S. government.
Can I file online?
Yes. copyright.gov offers online registration through our electronic Copyright Office (eCO). See SL-35.
Do they take credit cards?
If you file your application online using eCO eService, you may pay by credit card. Credit cards are not accepted for registration through the mail, but may be used for registrations that are filed in person in the Copyright Office.
There are other services for which the Copyright Office will accept a credit card payment. For more information see Circular 4, Copyright Fees.
How long does the registration process take, and when will I receive my certificate?
The time the Copyright Office requires to process an application varies, depending on the number of applications the Office is receiving and clearing at the time of submission and the extent of questions associated with the application. Current Processing Times
Will my personal information be available to the public?
Yes. Please be aware that when you register your claim to a copyright in a work with the U.S. Copyright Office, you are making a public record. All the information you provide on your copyright registration is available to the public and will be available on the Internet.
PRE-REGISTRATION ASKED QUESTIONS
Is preregistration a substitute
No. Preregistration is not a form of registration but is simply an indication of an intent to register a work once the work has been completed and/or published. When the work has been completed, it may be registered as an unpublished work, and when it has been published, it may be registered as a published work.
Preregistration of a work offers certain advantages to a copyright owner pursuant to 17 U.S.C. 408(f), 411 and 412. However, preregistration of a work does not constitute prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyright or of the facts stated in the application for preregistration or in the preregistration record. The fact that a work has been preregistered does not create any presumption that the Copyright Office will register the work upon submission of an application for registration.
A person who has preregistered a work must register the work within one month after the copyright owner becomes aware of infringement and no later than three months after first publication. If full registration is not made within the prescribed time period, a court must dismiss an action for copyright infringement that occurred before or within the first two months after first publication.
How do I Preregister?
You must apply online; no paper application form is available. Only an application and fee are required; a copy or phonorecord of the work itself, or any finished part thereof, should not be submitted. Instead, the applicant must give as full a description of the work as possible in the online application.
How do I complete a preregistration application?
The preregistration application is only available online. We recommend that you read the detailed information by clicking here, including the screen-by-screen instructions, before beginning your online application. Much of this information is also provided on the individual application screens. To begin the preregistration process, go to the Preregister Your Work page and click on the Start the Preregistration Process button at the bottom of the page.
What is the fee for preregistration?
What does ACH (payment) mean?
See Circular 4 - Copyright Office Fees.
ACH is an acronym for The Automated Clearing House Network. If you choose this option of payment, you may have money transferred electronically from your personal or corporate bank account to make your payment to the Copyright Office. If you choose this method, you will need your bank’s routing number and your bank account number. These usually appear on your check; the routing number is sometimes the one appearing at the bottom left on your check, with your check account number appearing to the right of the routing number. You may give a check number on the online payment screen, but it is not required.
What methods of payment are accepted for preregistration?
Where do we start? There are two types of sample clearance:
the master composition
the sound recording
Start by researching the artist and track you plan to sample. Start with the major rights organizations like such as ASCAP, BMI, EMI or SESAC. Go to the repertoire and search the title or artist name, revealing the track title, performer, and the song writer(s), as well as the publisher names.
The listings give the publisher’s name and songwriter information, so next you need to search for the publisher on the net. Some of the larger publisher sites offer a mechanical licensing option (for cover songs) through the website. Record label information can be found just by pulling the song up on any music download site. Most old record labels have sold their rights to larger agencies.
NEXT STEP: CONTACTING THE PUBLISHER OR OWNER
The next step: find the licensing point of contact or a general information email to send your request. In your request you’ll want to include:
all the information found on the ASCAP/BMI site
what you sampled (how long the sampled portion is, time, seconds/bars)
a private link to your track
the length of the track
what the tentative release date is.
If you cannot find the publisher’s information, do not get a response, or just have a phone number, don’t be afraid to call to get the correct contact information! Yes, these companies may not be worried about your downloads (since no one is getting rich from electronic music sales alone), but it doesn’t hurt to make and record the attempt.
Don’t worry that you won’t be able to pay an upfront fee, ask and negotiate if they will take a percentage of the royalties. As long as you show them that there is something in it for them and have done the groundwork, it will be easier to negotiate. Be up front. Some of them are not used to dealing with electronic music artists and think that the label you are working with has a budget for every release. Some companies may not want to deal with sample clearance and treat it just like a cover song or mechanical license.
These are controlled by statutory royalties and sometimes covered by the distribution site as well. Communicate with them and make sure they are the sole owners of the song. On one of my recent releases, the sample I used is actually 71% owned by one company and 29% by another. Sometimes a record label may also be involved if the ownership is separate – you’ll have to go through the same process with them.
STUCK WITH NO RESPONSE
What if they don’t respond? Consider releasing the track as a bootleg or free download, not making a profit off the track but can get the exposure. This is how artists like Morgan Page got their start – but it could also end with a public apology for taking someone else’s work. Julio Bashmore found himself in this predicament and paid an undisclosed amount to the original songwriters (see his public apology below).
Julio Bashmore’s public apology.
Finally, consider recreating the sample. Use different instruments or a similar sequence; try making it different. If you have access to live instrument players, then it can be treated just like a cover song. Once a song or track is out, it can be covered by anyone and performed as long as the statutory royalty rate is given to the original artists or copyright owner.
THE COPYRIGHT DILEMMA
Is it fair to use someone else’s hard work without paying them? Music is a creation that represents the artist and belongs to everyone’s ears, but when it comes to paying the bills, everyone is willing to go the extra mile to protect their work.
In my latest track (“Fire” produced with David Mel), I asked myself – can this be cleared, or can it be recognized? I started the conversation early on with the owners – so when a label came knocking (and later on Ministry of Sound!) we had the license paperwork ready to go. If you have a hit on your hands, why wait to clear the sample at a later point in time when it could cost a ton less to clear it early? If they can smell the money, sample owners are going to want a larger chunk.
Remember that every country has different laws, treaties, etc. that cover copyright law. As a disco house producer, samples are a part of the business. It’s not always worth it to obtain sample clearance, but if it is a well-known song, strongly consider it. Protect yourself by weighing the options in a world where technology like Shazaam can easily recognize bits and pieces of music and the copyright landscape is always evolving!