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Recorded Sound Section--Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division


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LC Online Catalog
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Copyright Office Online Catalog

The Copyright Office online catalog contains information about recordings received by the Copyright Office from 1978 to the present, particularly music and spoken word commercial recordings. These recordings may or may not be held in MBRS. The bibliographic records are searchable by author, claimant name, album title, and often by song title. All sound recordings registered for copyright since 1978 are listed in the Copyright Office online catalog, which is available on the Library of Congress Web site. The division does not retain all of these recordings. Recordings that are selected for the collections are cataloged and can be found by consulting the Library and divisional catalogs described above. Audio cassettes, recordable compact discs, and 45-rpm discs submitted for copyright and retained by the division are cataloged in SONIC, which provides limited subject access (using LCSH) or the LC online catalog.

Recordings that are not retained by the division are sent to offsite storage and are accessible only through the Copyright Office online catalog. The reference staff will assist you in locating items not retained for the collections by the division. Copyright deposits from 1972 to 1977 are listed in a printed index called the Catalog of Copyright Entries: Sound Recordings, available in the Recorded Sound Reference Center.

The Importance of Copyright Recordings

For years, composers and songwriters were required to deposit sheet music, lead sheets, or other written transcripts of their music in applying for copyright. When the copyright law changed in 1978, claimants could instead submit recordings of their musical works. As a result, the Library receives thousands of copyright recordings every year—some by established performers, others recorded at home in someone's basement. The change in the law allowed amateur musicians and performers to share their opinions in musical form on social issues such as abortion and women's rights. “The Ballad of Anita Hill” (1991 copyright deposit, RYD 1817), sung by Sally Chappell; Tania Wahl's composition “Ride, Sally Ride!” (1983 copyright deposit, RYG 4601) in honor of the first American woman in space, astronaut Sally Ride (b. 1951); and Lindy Gravelle's feminist tune “We've Come a Long Way, Ladies” (1992 copyright deposit, RYC 2714) are all in this collection.

Copyright deposits may reveal the early musical stirrings of future recording stars. The division has dozens of copyright recordings submitted in the mid-1980s by a young musician and songwriter named Ellen Amos. One 1978 recording features the fifteen-year-old Amos performing with the band Contraband. By the early 1990s she was garnering attention and building a following as Tori Amos (b. 1963). Now she fills concert halls and sings eloquently of concerns and issues that speak directly to women of her generation.

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