Registering music and sound recordings
Fact sheet P-31
Issued: 26th January 2021 Last amended: 31st August 2022
Fact sheet P-31: Copyright registration of music, songs and sound recordings
A finished piece of music can be a complex arrangement of individual rights. Copyright will exist in the finished sound recording (a type of copyright known as a phonographic right), the underlying musical work, lyrics, as well as artwork or photography used for the cover or inlay card; and any of these element could be owned by different parties.
The good news is that, when it comes to registering with the UK Copyright Service, you don’t need separate registration for these elements, a registration will automatically form an evidence record of ALL the items you include in the registration. You can also group an album of songs together into a single registration. This makes registration of musical works easy and affordable using our service.
- What can be registered
You can have a registration for an individual song, a whole album, or some other project or logical collection of your songs and recordings.
Most commonly songwriters will register an album of songs (i.e. one registration for the album as a whole) and thus pay one registration fee for the album. When submitting such a work, you would use the title for the whole album as the 'title of work' on the application form, but the registration would still be evidence of all the songs submitted under that registration number.
Any and all of the items that make up your work can be included in the evidence that you submit: audio files, musical notation/score, artwork, midi files, lyrics, cover artwork, etc. can all be included in the files you submit. If you have an audio recording, this is normally the most important, as this contains all the elements, a audio recording will be evidence not just of the recording itself, but also the music and lyrics that in represents. In fact a large number of submissions we receive from songwriters consist only of MP3 audio files.
When it comes to uploading audio files, we will accept any audio format, but recommend MP3 as MP3 offers good compression, meaning files are smaller and upload quicker, as well as being a widely accepted standard format that does not require specialist tools or software to open.
- When to register
We recommend registering before you make your work available to others if at all possible, that way you have evidence of your claim that predates any possible time that someone else could have copied your work. Sometimes this is not possible, but if your work has reached other people we would urge you to register as soon as possible, before anyone tries to claim your music as their own creation.
- Work in progress?
Whilst you may ideally want to wait until the album or project nears completion, it is quite normal and correct to register a work in progress. If, for example, you have started work on an album/project and are sending copies of the work to others (e.g. agents, people collaborating on the project, venues, prospective publishers, etc.), or even worse sharing it via the Internet, then now is the time to register.
As your album or project develops you can submit new material (or new versions of content already submitted) using our update facility if you need to.
- How to register
Copyright registration can be carried out either online or by postal application.
Online registration is cheaper and will provide immediate cover for your work. During the online process you will be asked to upload the files that make up your work (e.g. MP3 files, perhaps Word documents, PDF, image files, etc.). As a general rule, music projects are ideal for online registration as they tend to consist of relatively few files and are not exceptionally large, but if you have a project that consists of a lot of files, or large amounts of data, you should check out our upload advice page.
Alternatively, you can use our postal service, and just submit a postal application form including the music on a CD, DVD, USB stick or even as paper score, along with any supporting files (lyrics, cover art, etc.)
If ownership is shared (e.g. Music and Lyrics Person A, sound recording Person B), simply state this in the ‘copyright owner name(s)’ section of the form. You can include details in the extra description field if there is not enough room.
We offer an update facility that allows you to add new files or changed versions to an existing registration as your work evolves.
If, for example, you have already registered an album in progress (perhaps a few songs for the upcoming album), but now have more songs to submit under the SAME album, then you can add the new songs under that same registration using the update facility. The update form also provides the option to change the title of the whole registration (the title that appears on the certificate) if the album title changes.
There is a fee for updates, but it is far lower than a new registration - currently £19.75 if you submit online. For full details of how the update facility work, please see our fact sheet P-17: Updating copyright registrations.