Compendium of U.S. Copyright Practices, 3rd Edition

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803.5 (D) Pre-1972 Sound Recordings


803.5 (D) Pre-1972 Sound Recordings


Sound recordings were not protected under U.S. federal law until February 15, 1972, and the protection provided in 1972 was not retroactive. As such, sound recordings by U.S. authors that were first fixed prior to February 15, 1972 are not subject to federal copyright protection in the United States. 17 U.S.C. § 301 (C).


Registration under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (“GATT”) may be possible for foreign sound recordings fixed prior to February 15, 1972. For more information on GATT registration, see Chapter 2000, Section 2007.


NOTE: Sound recordings fixed before February 15, 1972 may be protected under state common law or statutes. The 1976 Copyright Act provides that any rights or remedies under the common law or statutes of any State shall not be annulled or limited by federal copyright law until February 15, 2067. 17 U.S.C. § 301 (C). The Orrin G. Hatch – ” Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act (“MMA”) also provides owners of pre-1972 sound recordings with certain protections and remedies for copyright infringement if their recordings are used without authorization. To exercise these remedies, owners typically must file schedules with the U.S. Copyright Office listing their sound recordings and specifying the name of the rights owner, title, and featured artist for each recording. 17 U.S.C. § 1401 (F) (5) (A). Additional information concerning the MMA and instructions on how to file a schedule is available on the Office’s website.


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