Releasing a CD involves addressing a long list of package-related details.
Names, titles, and short phrases or expressions are not subject to copyright protection, so you can use a title that has been used before. But stay away from trademarked names. They are the exclusive property of trademark owners who take their rights very seriously.
Properly crediting the performances, the master recording, artwork, photographs, and music, including proper copyright notices (although not technically required under copyright law) is common courtesy and will help avoid legal problems.
• Performances: generally speaking, all performances on the CD should be credited. An exception to this rule occurs when a performer has waived his or her credit line in a work-for-hire agreement. Producer or sideman agreements may contain specific wording or placement requirements that should be followed accordingly.
• Master Recording: who owns the copyright in the master recording? Copyright in a sound recording protects the particular series of sounds fixed in the recording against unauthorized reproduction or distribution. This copyright is distinct from copyright in the actual songs and is usually owned by the record company. A copyright notice is not technically required, but is recommended. Example: © 2015, XYZ Records, Inc. All rights reserved. It is common practice to include the following statement after the notice: “This work is protected under the copyright laws and any unauthorized duplication or distribution is prohibited by law.” Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is not required. But, like notice, it is recommended.
• Artwork: artwork is copyrighted separately, and you must secure permission to use any artwork not owned by the band. When obtaining permission, the terms of the license or assignment should be put in writing. Artwork is a separately copyrighted element. Putting the copyright notice on both the jewel case and the tray card is recommended. When the owner of the sound recording also owns the copyright in the artwork, the copyright notice for the two properties can be combined: Example: © 2009 XYZ Records, Inc. All rights reserved.
• Music: a single copyright notice may be used if all the compositions are written by the artist (controlled by one publisher). Example: All songs © 2009 XYZ Records, Inc. (ASCAP). For covers (compositions written by other writers), a separate copyright notice should be provided for each song in the same form as above. Writing credits should appear below the title of each song whether original or cover. Each writer’s name should be provided. A first initial and last name is sufficient.
Warning: Rights to record a cover song do not include the rights to print the lyrics. Those rights must be obtained separately from the copyright owner (the publisher or the publisher’s agent).
Notice of Trademarks and Service Marks
Do you have the right to use the name of your band and the name of your label? Prior to registration, the designation TM should be placed on the right hand shoulder of the name or logo. Once a federal trademark is registered, the mark should be changed to ®.
Any recognizable person appearing on your CD has a right to publicity. Therefore, photos and any other images of people should be cleared in advance.
For retail sales, the product must have a UPC Code (also known as a bar code). Most CD duplicators will provide a barcode at no additional cost. If you plan to register with SoundScan, a company that tracks music retail sales, be sure that the barcode is specifically for your album. For more information about barcodes, talk to your manufacturer or check out the Uniform Code Council.