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Topic: Copyright question: published or unpublished work?

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  1. #1

    Question Copyright question: published or unpublished work?

    I want to register the copyright of a score I did for a documentary. However, I'm having a hard time determining whether the work is published or unpublished (as defined in the US copyright law). I licensed the score for use in the documentary. I don't have my own music publishing company.

    Firstly, if the movie/documentary is published, the score is published.

    Publication of a motion picture publishes all the components embodied in it including the music, the script, and the sounds. Thus, if a motion picture made from a screenplay is published, the screenplay is published to the extent it is contained in the published work.


    Ok, so now I have to determine whether the documentary is published:

    Publication of a motion picture takes place when one or more copies are distributed to the public by sale, rental, lease, or lending or when an offering is made to distribute copies to a group of people (wholesalers, retailers, broadcasters, motion picture distributors, and the like) for purposes of further distribution or public performance. Offering to distribute a copy of a motion picture for exhibition during a film festival may be considered publication of that work.

    For an offering to constitute publication, copies must be made and be ready for distribution. The performance itself of a motion picture (for example, showing it in a theater, on television, or in a school room) does not constitute publication.


    Ok, this is the situation:


    -the documentary will be broadcast on national TV and possibly abroad, for which a master will go to the TV network(s)
    -the documentary will be shown at a few film festivals, for which a copy will go to the festivals
    -the documentary will not be released to the public in any other way


    Published or unpublished? (as far as the US Copyright Law is concerned)

    Thanks,
    Roy

  2. #2

    Re: Copyright question: published or unpublished work?

    published. Broadcasting it alone satisfies that requirement.
    Regards,
    Brian W. Ralston

    Check out my new FREE iPhone App! Click Here!

  3. #3

    Re: Copyright question: published or unpublished work?

    Go to the website of the U.S. copyright office:

    http://www.copyright.gov/

    or call

    (202) 707-3000

    and ask these kinds of questions of the people who best know the current law. You can copyright damn near anything, but that doesn't mean you can't be sued for it. Asking a few tough questions can save you a lot of trouble.

    Also, there is a new copyright form that will save you about $10 on the registration fee. (Another way to economize, all ready mentioned in this forum, is to copyright compliations of your work. For example, it costs as much to copyright a book of scores than a single score. And you don't even need sheet music. You can copyright a recording.)

  4. #4

    Re: Copyright question: published or unpublished work?

    Agree with all.

    Also, YOU are the publisher. All you need to do is set one up (easy) w/ ASCAP or BMI with a name you choose that is available, (not used by someone else already). Register your work w/ them and they will track the material for you and make sure you get paid on the TV plays.

    Good going!

    RickyB

  5. #5

    Re: Copyright question: published or unpublished work?

    Quote Originally Posted by ejr View Post
    Go to the website of the U.S. copyright office:

    http://www.copyright.gov/

    or call

    (202) 707-3000

    and ask these kinds of questions of the people who best know the current law. You can copyright damn near anything, but that doesn't mean you can't be sued for it. Asking a few tough questions can save you a lot of trouble.

    Also, there is a new copyright form that will save you about $10 on the registration fee. (Another way to economize, all ready mentioned in this forum, is to copyright compliations of your work. For example, it costs as much to copyright a book of scores than a single score. And you don't even need sheet music. You can copyright a recording.)
    Actually I'm asking here because the Copyright Office will not make the determination whether a work is published. They are very reticent about it.

  6. #6

    Re: Copyright question: published or unpublished work?

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian W. Ralston View Post
    published. Broadcasting it alone satisfies that requirement.
    Thanks Brian. What if the documentary wasn't broadcast and just shown at a festival?

    Incidentally, do you have your own publishing company? And do you register copyright for all your projects?

  7. #7

    Re: Copyright question: published or unpublished work?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ricky B View Post
    Agree with all.

    Also, YOU are the publisher. All you need to do is set one up (easy) w/ ASCAP or BMI with a name you choose that is available, (not used by someone else already). Register your work w/ them and they will track the material for you and make sure you get paid on the TV plays.

    Good going!

    RickyB
    Thanks, RickyB. How about work that isn't broadcast (short films, corporate films, demos)? Does it still go through your publishing company?

  8. #8

    Re: Copyright question: published or unpublished work?

    Well, in those cases, You can still have the material credited w/ your pub name, etc., but, there's nothing to track there.
    It's more like a 'work for hire' scenerio. Flat fee, but, if & when, it may go into a bigger scene, as w/ a short film, you have it in place. It should be spelled out in any agreement you have as well.

    I've done some corp work and it's always a fee and the y use it for a corp meeting and that's all. However, tere's always a second life for that kind of thing, since you can always recycle it by changing lyrics, etc. if there are any. The client doesn't own the material.

    RickyB

  9. #9

    Re: Copyright question: published or unpublished work?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandarin Man View Post
    Thanks Brian. What if the documentary wasn't broadcast and just shown at a festival?

    Incidentally, do you have your own publishing company? And do you register copyright for all your projects?
    It is published. Really, the fact that it is published or unpublished has to do more with how long the copyright office will keep the submitted recording on file. For published works, they keep it on file for a much shorter period of time. Like 5 years...or 10 years. (Since it is published and available in some form to the public...the proof of its existence is easier I suppose. So they save gov't money by keeping these works physically on file for less time. This does not affect the copyright registration in any way.)

    For works that are published, they keep the submitted recording at the library of congress for a much longer period of time. I forget how long that is.

    Yes...I copyright works and depending on what they are for...I will either do it individually for each project or in some smaller cases, I will do them as a compilation. My publishing company is registered with BMI. But I have works registered with the copyright office for both me as the composer and for my company, depending on the work. (One or the other...not both).

    But as my projects get bigger, the copyright is not mine to hold, but belongs to the production company or the studio, etc...In those cases, I am registered with BMI as the writer/composer and the studio/production company is registered as the publisher and the copyright is covered in their copyright of the film, etc...
    Regards,
    Brian W. Ralston

    Check out my new FREE iPhone App! Click Here!

  10. #10

    Re: Copyright question: published or unpublished work?

    Thanks for shedding some light on this, guys.

    Brian, if I understand you correctly, this sums it up:

    When registering a work that's used in a commercial project (where the copyright remains with you), be it a film, documentary, corporate video, commercial, TV show, you would register as 'published'. (regardless of whether the project is distributed on DVD or broadcast)

    Only demos and autonomous work not released to the public, would be registered as 'unpublished'.

    Furthermore, you would register works used in commercial projects that are likely to yield back end royalties in the future through your publishing company. While demos and autonomous work could also be registered just in the author's name (you).

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