“The final rule expands the registration options available to register multiple musical works distributed together as a single piece through one electronic registration application.”
On Tuesday, February 23, the United States Copyright Office issued a final rule that creates a new “group” registration option for albums of music and works related to that music. The new option, or Group Registration for Works on an Album of Music (GRAM) allows applicants to register either a group of up to 20 musical works or a group of up to 20 sound recordings and associated literary, pictorial, or graphic works contained on an album of music. An “album” is defined as “a single physical or electronic unit of distribution containing at least two musical works and/or sound recordings embodied in phonorecords…” Artists can take advantage of the copyright rule to protect their original music beyond the basic protections automatically bestowed to them once it is fixed in a format in which others can hear it.
Even though some level of protection is automatic, it is generally a good idea to register works. Registration increases an artist’s rights and remedies and allows them to bring a lawsuit to enforce their ownership over the work if someone uses the composition without the artist’s permission. Typically, sound recordings and, for example, album art, posters, or liner notes, would be registered separately via different categories.
Under the original proposed rule, applicants would have been required to submit their claims using the online Standard Application, given technological limitations in the current registration system. Based on commenters’ input, however, the Office has worked to introduce new applications specifically for GRAM claims within the existing system. The final rule expands the registration options available to register multiple musical works distributed together as a single piece through one electronic registration application.
Some commenters also requested clarification to ensure that the rule is sufficiently flexible to accommodate streaming services and other distribution models that do not involve the purchasing of copies. They proposed that instead of using the term “album”, the term “release” should be used, which would be defined as “a collection of two or more sound recordings or other media that are grouped together as those terms are used in the Copyright Act.”
The rule takes effect March 26, 2021 and instructions for completing the applications will be provided by the Copyright Office when the option becomes available. Resources and guides for GRAM registration procedure will also be added to the Copyright Office GRAM page as it goes online.
Individual Registration Should Still Be Considered
Registering an album as a whole is the easiest and cheapest method if all the sound recordings have the same author and ownership, as each registration filing is a separate process that requires a separate fee. However, applying to protect songs individually may enhance the protections provided to an artist and give them the opportunity to recover more damages in the event that multiple songs are infringed.