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  • R. Scott Kimsey

Why Do Some Copyright Notices Use ℗?

You may have noticed two copyright symbols used in connection with music--the © symbol that everyone recognizes, and the ℗  symbol that causes a lot of confusion and misinformation (for example, you'll see a lot of people online saying the latter means that a work is published. That is not true). The explanation for the two symbols is simple: a recorded song has two copyrights. One copyright exists in the written song, and is indicated by ©. You'll find the statute that provides for that symbol at 17 U.S.C. 401. The second copyright in a recorded song is for the sound recording itself. Notice of that copyright is provided using the ℗ symbol, which stands for "phonorecord." Yes, it is outdated, but we still use it. The statute that provides for that symbol is 17 U.S.C. 402. That's all there is to the mystery. If you want to use a recorded song, you'll need permission from both copyright holders (assuming they're not both held by the same person or entity).

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