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Copyrighting Your Performing Arts Work

Performing Arts and Copyright Law

You've finally done it. You've created an original work of art that you hope will catch fire with the general public. While this may not be your magnum opus, it is still something you want to protect for years to come. To do that, you'll want to make sure you have exclusive copyright rights over your art by registering with the U.S. Copyright office.

FindLaw has complied a list of what you must do in order to protect your work. Follow these steps to register your musical work, dramatic work, script, pantomime, choreography, motion picture, or other audiovisual work with the U.S. Copyright Office. Failure to register your script, motion picture, or otherwise, could lead to expensive legal battles.

Step 1

Make sure your work is a performing arts work. Performing arts works are intended to be "performed" directly before an audience or indirectly "by means of any device or process." Included are (1) musical works, including any accompanying words; (2) dramatic works, such as scripts, including any accompanying music; (3) pantomimes and choreographic works; and (4) motion pictures and other audiovisual works.

Note: Copyright registration for a sound recording alone is neither the same as, nor a substitute for, registration for the musical, dramatic, or literary work recorded. The underlying work may be registered in its own right apart from any recording of the performance, or in certain cases, the underlying work may be registered together with the sound recording.

Step 2

Put into one envelope or package:

1. A completed application Form PA, Short Form PA, Form TX, Form SE, Form SR, or Form VA.

2. Pay a fee to the "Register of Copyrights."

3. Non-returnable copy(ies) of the material to be registered. (Read details on Special Deposit Requirements for musical compositions and motion pictures). Typically this means you will send a copy of the work being registered. The deposit requirements will vary in particular situations. A deposit is usually one copy (if unpublished) or two copies (if published) of the work to be registered for copyright.

Step 3

Send the package to:

Library of Congress
Copyright Office
101 Independence Avenue, S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20559-6000

Your registration becomes effective on the day that the U.S. Copyright Office receives your application, payment, and copy(ies) in acceptable form. If your submission is in order, you will receive a certificate of registration in 4 to 5 months.

For more details, please see Circular 45, Copyright Registration for Motion Pictures Including Video Recordings Circular 50, Copyright Registration for Musical Compositions Circular 55, Copyright Registration for Multimedia Works and other informational circulars.

The Copyright Office is changing the format of certain copyright registration certificates, as part of a pilot project that involves registrations for motion pictures and other audiovisual works.

Benefits of Hiring a Lawyer to Register Your Copyright

A knowledgeable intellectual property attorney will know how to file your copyright and respond to any opposition(s) in a timely manner. Even the most seasoned artist would likely not be familiar enough with the copyright registration process to efficiently respond to a rejection. Save yourself time and money and speak to an attorney in your area today.

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