802.8 (F) Publication Issues
A public performance or display of a work does not, in and of itself, constitute publication. 17 U.S.C. § 101 (definition of “publication”). If an applicant gives a publication date, but states that the publication date refers to a performance of the musical work, the registration specialist will communicate with the applicant. Id.
Under the current copyright law, the public distribution of phonorecords on or after January 1, 1978 publishes the musical works recorded therein. By contrast, musical works distributed only in the form of phonorecords (e.g., records, tapes, or discs) prior to January 1, 1978, cannot be registered as published works under the 1909 Act or the 1976 Act. See 17 U.S.C. § 303 (B). Thus, if a musical work was released only in phonorecords prior to January 1, 1978 and if the phonorecords were still available as of that date, the date of first publication for registration purposes would be January 1, 1978. If the phonorecords were no longer available as of January 1, 1978, but the musical work was subsequently rereleased in any format, the rerelease date would be considered the date of first publication. If the phonorecords were no longer available as of January 1, 1978, and the musical work was not subsequently rereleased, the work may be registered as an unpublished work.
For more information on publication, see Chapter 1900.