Prior to March 1, 1989, a notice was required when a U.S. sound recording was published on phonorecords with the authority of the copyright owner.
There is a fundamental distinction between a sound recording and a phonorecord. A sound recording is a work of authorship that results from the fixation of a series of sounds, such as a recording of a song, a recording of a speech, or other types of audio recordings. By contrast, a phonorecord is a material object that contains a sound recording, such as a vinyl disc, cassette, compact disc, digital audio file (e.g., .mp3, .wav), or other recording medium. Specifically, the Copyright Act defines phonorecords as “material objects in which sounds, other than those accompanying a motion picture or other audiovisual work, are fixed by any method now known or later developed, and from which the sounds can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.” 17 U.S.C. § 101 (definition of “phonorecords”).
Although notice was required for U.S. sound recordings, notice was not required when a musical work, literary work, or dramatic work was published on phonorecords, because a phonorecord is not a visually perceptible copy of these types of works.
Compare Copyright Act of 1976, § 402 (A), 90 Stat. 2541, 2577 (1976) (stating that whenever a sound recording “is published in the United States or elsewhere by authority of the copyright owner” a notice “shall be placed on all publicly distributed phonorecords of the sound recording”) with id. § 401 (A), 90 Stat. at 2576 (stating that “[w]henever a work protected under this title is published in the United States or elsewhere by authority of the copyright owner,” a notice “shall be placed on all publicly distributed copies from which the work can be visually perceived”).