Registering Copyright for a Motion Picture Musical Score
Yes, you can register your copyright for compositions and sound recordings that you create, or have created, to be used in motion picture. However, there are finer details that can affect how you file your registration. The United States Copyright Office also has some conditions that may disqualify you from registering your copyright ownership over the individual songs you've composed.
- If you've created these musical works or sound recordings as part of a "work for hire" agreement, then you do not own the copyright to those works and cannot register yourself as the copyright claimant.
- Sound recordings and other fixations of sound that exist solely within a motion picture are considered part of that creative work and therefore must be registered under the motion picture.
If The Movie Has Been Released, How Does That Affect My Registration? Have My Songs Been Distributed To The Public?
Publication is a very important detail to bear in mind when registering copyright. However, publication of a movie does not equal publication of the musical score, since they are viewed as separate creative works by the Copyright Office. So you are able to file the works as "unpublished" by their definition of published/unpublished so long as you have not distributed a printed, sheet music, or audio-only version of your song(s) to the public.
The Copyright Office's very technical definition of publication also limits how you can register your copyright after you have released your score or soundtrack album to the public. For this reason, we strongly recommend filing early and often, before publication.