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

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803.9 (D) (4) Beats / Music Track

803.9 (D) (4) Beats / Music Track

A beat is an instrumental or drum track often created in a studio as a background for a recording. The term “beat” or “music track” may refer to the music, the sound recording, or both. To refer to the sound recording, the applicant should state “sound recording.” To refer to the music, the applicant should state “music.” To refer to both, the applicant should state “music and sound recording.” When completing the online application, these terms may be provided in the field marked Other; when completing a paper application these terms may be provided on space 2 of Form SR.

The beat or “music track” may be preexisting in whole or in part, or it may be completely original. Where the beat is completely original, it may be described as a “sound recording.” Where a preexisting beat or music track has been used, the material generally should be excluded from the claim. For more information on derivative sound recording authorship, see Section 803.6.

NOTE: Some companies offer so-called “royalty-free” beats for download or purchase. Often, the beat is sold to a large number of people and there is no written agreement between the purchaser and the company offering the beats. Thus, even if the company states that the purchaser is the copyright owner of the beat, the purchaser may be merely a nonexclusive licensee of the work rather than an owner. As such, the applicant should exclude the beat from the claim.


• Mark writes lyrics and records them over purchased “beats.” The applicant should name Mark as the author of lyrics and vocal performance, should identify the preexisting music and sound recording in the Material Excluded field, and should describe the lyrics and vocal performance in the Author Created and New Material Included fields.

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