For many years the Copyright Office was behind the times, but it seems to be catching up. For instance, online copyright registration of your song is much easier and faster than the old paper/snail mail way. The Office is now trying to bring album registration into the 21st century as well.
As you may or may not know, there currently is no way to register an album with the Copyright Office. You can register each individual song, but that costs $55 for each application and can turn into some big money in a hurry when an album is involved.
The way that most songwriters have been doing it for many years is to copyright a number of songs under the same registration. This really hasn’t been too much of a problem in that the registration date is created for all the songs included, and that’s really all you need if you were to go to court in a plagiarism lawsuit.
Finally, and many years too late, the Copyright Office is now proposing a new “Group Registration for Works on an Album of Music” or “GRAM.”
The proposed rule would allow you to register up to twenty musical works or twenty sound recordings contained in an album. The only stipulation is that the songs have to be created by the same author or have at least one common author in the group.
What’s even better is that the proposed rule will also permit the registration of associated literary, pictorial, and graphic works in the album authored or owned by the claimant, such as cover art, liner notes, and/or posters.
According to the Copyright Office notice, “The applicants will be required to submit their claims through the electronic system using the Standard Application. If the claim includes one or more sound recordings the applicant should select the Standard Application designated for a “Sound Recording.” If the group includes musical works but does not include any sound recordings, the applicant should select the Standard Application designated for a “Work of the Performing Arts.”
Keep in mind that this is still a proposal and hasn’t gone into effect yet.
It’s ironic that the Copyright Office is addressing this problem now that albums are being de-emphasized thanks to streaming. It’s a solution where the problem may well have been already solved. That said, it would be the perfect solution for a concept album, if anyone ever does one again.