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U.S. Copyright Office Simplifies Copyright Registration for Certain Recording Artists

Establishes Group Registration for Works on an Album of Music - the "GRAM" rule

By Marc Jacobson

Under a new rule, the U.S. Copyright Office will allow an applicant to register between 2 and 20 musical works or sound recordings, found in an album, with one application. To do so, all of the works must be created by the same author or have at least one common author, and the claimant for each work is the same.

If the application is for sound recordings, the applicant may also simultaneously register "literary, pictorial and graphic works" - or liner notes, album art, and posters.

An "album" is considered a single physical or digital "unit of distribution" as well as the associated literary, pictorial, and graphic works. The album must have a title, and each work must also have a title.

Generally, all of the works under the application must be first published on the same album, and the date and nation of publication must be specified in the application, and the nation of publication must be the same for each work. If a particular work was released as a single earlier, the date of first publication is listed separately in the application; in other words, if 12 recordings are on the album, and one was released as a single before the others, then the date of publication for the single is different from the remaining 11, and that is shown in the application with 2 dates.

If the claim is for sound recordings, published first in the U.S., 2 phonorecords of the best edition and 2 copies of associated literary, pictorial or graphic works must also be included. Different rules apply to publication that occurred outside the U.S. Digital deposits are accepted under certain circumstances.

The effect of this rule change will be to simplify the registration process for recording artists who release works in album or EP form. In addition, it reduces the cost of filing from one application for each recording, to one application fee for all the recordings. That fee is now $65 per application.

It is unclear what effect registering under the GRAM rule will have on the recovery of statutory damages or for willful infringement. There is case law that supports a separate award of damages for each successful application. Combining many works under one registration may affect the ability to recover damages.

The rule goes into effect this Friday, March 26, 2021. The final rule may be found here:

The Copyright Office is holding an online seminar to discuss these rule changes at noon EST on Wednesday, March 31, 2021. Click here to register for the free seminar, to be held on zoom.

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