Lost Registration For Sound Recording

Full Question: I registered a sound recording copyright in 1988. I am listed as the creator, but the copyright was placed in my now deceased mother’s name, as it was a gift to her. How do I locate it, as the paperwork has since been misplaced, and put it in my name? I no longer have the sound recording, nor can I reproduce it. The only copy now in existence is what I sent with the copyright application. Is there any chance that cassette recording still exists in an archive? Has the copyright expired?

Answer: There are a couple of ways that you can find a copy of the registration certificate of your work. First, you may search for the registration certificate of your work by searching the online public catalog located on our website at https://copyright.gov/. In the alternative, you may request that the Records Research and Certification Section (RRCS) conduct a search of the Office’s public records. This request must be in writing and the Office charges a fee for this service. See Circular 4 for information on the fees.

With respect to the deposit of the registered work, Section 704(a) of the Copyright Act states that “[u]pon their deposit in the Copyright Office under Sections 407 and 408, all copies, phonorecords, and identifying material, including those deposited in connection with claims that have been refused registration, are the property of the United States Government.” Unpublished and published deposit materials that are submitted to the Office in a hard copy format, such as a cassette, are stored in offsite storage facilities, unless they are selected by the Library of Congress for its collections.

Unpublished deposit materials are stored for the entire term of copyright. Published deposit materials are currently stored for twenty years. See Compendium (Third) ¤ 1510.1. If your work was unpublished, you may submit a written request for a copy of your work. The request should be sent to RRCS together with the appropriate fee. For further information, see Compendium (Third) ¤ 2407.

Generally, the term of copyright for works created on or after January 1, 1978, lasts for the author’s life plus an additional 70 years. For further information on the duration of copyright, see Circular 15a.

Answered by:

Rob Kasunic, Director of Registration Policy and Practices at the U.S. Copyright Office.