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Introducing a very special #TuesdayTip for filmmakers wanting to use a song in their film: Every recording has two individual copyrights. In many cases, you’ll need to contact the both the copyright owner of the musical composition and the copyright owner of the specific recording you’re using.

Copyright research tools

If you want to find out who owns a copyright, try these online resources:

  • ASCAP ACE Database – This is a go-to source of information about writers, performers, publishers, and alternate titles for copyrighted songs from both ASCAP and non-ASCAP affiliates. This database mostly includes information for compositions, but in addition to listing the writers and publishers/administrators for each composition, many listings also include the names of performers known to have made recordings of the works. By clicking on the name of the publishers/administrators for each composition, you may be able to get contact information including the address, phone number, or email address. You can search by title, writers, performers, publishers, work ID, or ISWC.
  • ISWC (International Standard Musical Work Code) – This is another option to find the creators, performers, and alternate titles of works, as well as their ISWC number. The ISWC number is used to track when musical compositions are publicly performed so that copyright owners can enjoy performance royalties. Search by the title or creator’s name; if you have trouble getting results, try expanding your search by adjusting the filter from “begins” or “exact” to “contains.”
  • United States Copyright Office Public Catalog (online) – This catalog includes works registered with the US Copyright Office from 1978 onward. Use “other search options” to get advanced search features such as being able to search for title/composer. After searching, you can also set search limits to include a specific date range and type of work such as “music” or “sound recording.” This will give you important information, such as the date a work was registered for copyright and who the copyright claimants are.
  • Library of Congress Audio Collection via SONIC (Sound ONline Inventory and Catalog) – Like the US Copyright Office catalog, SONIC will give you information about audio works that have been registered for copyright purposes. Information in this database includes the publication status, type, medium, genre, and the names of artists/groups performing on the recording.
  • Worldcat – Designed to help you find items in libraries near you (including university libraries that may have robust sheet music and recording collections), this database can also help you find out more about performers, record labels, and publishers of music and recordings. Using the advanced search, you can limit results to only musical scores and/or sound recordings. The details will include the publisher and authors/contributors, and the responsibility field can help you discover lyricists or arrangers.
  • – This website is listed as an e-resource by the Library of Congress. It provides critiques and ratings for albums, but more importantly for copyright researchers, it provides a “credits” section where it may list many of the professionals involved with creating an album, including the producer, other musicians, and the primary artist/band. Information available may also include the release formats, labels, and years, but avoid using this as your sole search tool since some of the information may be inaccurate.

We hope you find this information useful!


Disclaimer: Please note that the information contained within this news post and site is offered simply as a consideration to visitors who are in the entertainment industry and are seeking to learn more about various areas of entertainment, be it in film, movies, television, music, digital, new media, film financing, merchandising and/or branding. As such, the information so provided should never be construed as legal advice. If you need further assistance or legal advice for your specific matter, please do not hesitate in contacting an entertainment attorney (film, music, digital, licensing, financing) here in Los Angeles, California at The Hollywood Lawyer by(1) emailing us at; (2) calling us at (323) 300-4184; or (3) filling out our online form

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