Document Recordation: Completing and Submitting Declarations of Ownership in Musical Works
A Declaration of Ownership in Musical Works (DOMW) is a special type of document that copyright owners of musical works may submit for recordation upon complying with the instructions provided on this page. Under the Copyright Act, section 115 establishes a compulsory license, whereby anyone may make and distribute phonorecords of nondramatic musical works, subject to certain terms and conditions, and upon paying royalties when applicable. To obtain a compulsory license, a licensee must, among other things, serve a notice of intention to obtain a compulsory license to make and distribute phonorecords (NOI) on the relevant copyright owner. If, however, the public records of the Copyright Office do not identify the copyright owner and include an address at which the NOI can be served, the NOI can instead be filed with the Office. In such cases, copyright owners are not entitled to any royalties for the use of their musical works under the compulsory license. 17 U.S.C. §§ 115(b)(1), (c)(1). For more information about the section 115 compulsory license please see Circular 73.
Currently, NOIs may be filed electronically. They can be processed relatively quickly and NOIs covering millions of musical works are filed with the Office. There is, however, no correspondingly fast method for copyright owners of musical works to insert their identities and addresses into the Office’s records so as to become eligible to receive royalties under section 115 and so as to make their identities and addresses known to the music services that are required to search the Office’s records for such information. While the Office is working to modernize its systems to greatly decrease the time it takes to record a document or register a work, the Office has devised the DOMW as an interim solution.
Through a streamlined process the Office will prioritize and expedite the processing of DOMWs to the extent practicable. The Office anticipates, but does not guarantee, that most DOMWs will be processed within as little as a few weeks—though extremely large filings of tens of thousands or more works will take longer due to current IT system limitations. In addition to helping copyright owners become eligible to receive royalties for use of their works, the streamlined process will generate more comprehensive data about musical work ownership, directly benefitting the music services that rely on the Office’s data for complying with section 115. Each copyright owner’s identity and address will be passed through into the online public catalog and the direct feeds that many music services already subscribe to. Additionally, by requiring all DOMWs to list a uniform type of work, the process will also make it easier for music services to locate this information in the Office’s records.
Note that while a DOMW is a special type of document that must comply with the requirements below, a remitter may still submit a document that is a declaration concerning the ownership of musical works without complying with the below instructions. In such cases, assuming all other recordation-related rules and instructions have been followed, the document may still be recorded, but will not be a DOMW and will not be eligible for prioritized processing.
Requirements and Instructions for Completing and Submitting a DOMW:
- For DOMW purposes, a “copyright owner” is the owner of the exclusive right to authorize the making and distribution of phonorecords embodying musical works.
- The document itself must consist of a one-page declaration with a list of musical works attached. The declaration must:
- Be entitled “Declaration of Ownership in Musical Works.”
- State the name of the copyright owner.
- State an address for the copyright owner at which notice can be served.
- State that the named individual or entity is the copyright owner, or one of the copyright owners, of all of the musical works provided in the attached list.
- Be signed by the copyright owner or the copyright owner’s authorized representative.
- Be dated.
- Not contain any redactions.
- Where a work has multiple copyright owners:
- A single copyright owner may record a DOMW pertaining to works where that copyright owner is not the sole copyright owner.
- It is not necessary for every copyright owner to record a DOMW, though it is permitted. Be aware that in such cases, licensees under section 115 are required to send the NOI to the last address provided in the Office’s records and need not serve NOIs on all co-owners. See 37 C.F.R. §§ 201.18(a)(6), (f)(1).
- Multiple copyright owners may jointly file a DOMW that names and is signed by each such copyright owner, but only where each copyright owner is a co-owner in all of the musical works listed.
- All other requirements for recording a document with the Office must be satisfied (see 37 C.F.R. § 201.4), including payment of the appropriate filing fee (see 37 C.F.R. § 201.3(c)).
- The document must be accompanied by an electronic title list, and all other requirements and instructions for completing and submitting electronic title lists must be satisfied (see https://www.copyright.gov/recordation/etl/), except that when completing the electronic title list:
- In Column F “Type of Work,” enter “Musical Work.” Other details describing the type of work may be provided, but the phrase “Musical Work” must be present among them.
- Completing Column G “Name(s) of Author(s)” is required.
- While Columns H through K are not required, the Office strongly encourages remitters to include registration numbers where a work has been registered.
- The Office anticipates that in most cases, copyright owners will specifically prepare this document for the purpose of recordation. Consequently, the list of musical works can be a full and complete printed copy of the required electronic title list, rather than a separately prepared document. However, all text contained in the electronic title list must be visible once printed in hard copy. The Office’s recordation system is still paper based and a hard copy document must still be submitted.
- On Form DCS:
- Check the appropriate boxes to indicate that the submission is a DOMW and that an electronic title list is enclosed with your submission.
- In Item 9, check “Affidavit/Declaration/Certification.”
- In Item 11, the “Relationship” line must indicate that the declarant is the copyright owner. Additionally, the address for the copyright owner stated in the document, at which notice can be served, must be entered here as well.
- Submit your DOMW to the following address: Copyright Office–DOMW, P.O. Box 71537, Washington, DC 20024-1537. DOMWs sent to the Office’s normal address for recordation submissions may experience significant processing delays.