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

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Chapter 300
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803.6 (A) Permission to Use Preexisting Material


803.6 (A) Permission to Use Preexisting Material


Protection for a work employing preexisting material in which copyright subsists does not extend to any part of the work in which such material has been used unlawfully. 17 U.S.C. § 103 (A). Sound recordings that unlawfully employ preexisting sounds under copyright protection are not subject to copyright protection if they are inseparably intertwined with the preexisting sounds. Id.; see also H.R. REP. NO. 94-1476, at 57-58 (1976), reprinted in 1976 U.S.C.C.A.N. at 5670-71; S. REP. NO. 94-473, at 54-55 (1975).


The U.S. Copyright Office generally does not investigate the copyright status of preexisting material or investigate whether it has been used lawfully. However, the registration specialist may communicate with the applicant to determine whether permission to use was obtained where a recognizable preexisting work has been incorporated in a sound recording. The applicant may clarify the lawful use of preexisting material by including a statement to that effect in the Note to Copyright Office field of the online application or in a cover letter submitted with the paper application.


For a general discussion of this issue, see Chapter 300, Section 313.6 (B).


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