Academic journal article Marquette Intellectual Property Law Review

Notice and Supplemental Registration: Why the Copyright Office Must Update Its Policies Surrounding Author Notice

Academic journal article Marquette Intellectual Property Law Review

Notice and Supplemental Registration: Why the Copyright Office Must Update Its Policies Surrounding Author Notice

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION I. THE BACKGROUND OF MR. STRONG'S CLAIM II. EXISTING PRECEDENT FOR ADDRESSING MR. STRONG'S CLAIMS    A. Fraudulent concealment as a basis for challenging       authorship       1. Constructive Trust as a Basis for Rights in Copyright       2. Applying the Statute of Limitations  III. CURRENT POLICY SURROUNDING AUTHORSHIP AND CHANGES THAT    NEED TO BE MADE    A. The existing policy of the Copyright Office does not       adequately protect coauthors from having their status       changed    B. By implementing two changes to its policy, the Copyright       Office will be able to protect coauthors and prevent a       situation like Mr. Strong's from arising in the future CONCLUSION 


When one wishes to conduct a search for a specific copyright today, he or she is able to do so entirely online (provided that the copyright in question is dated 1978 or later) thanks to the digitization of copyright records by the United States Copyright Office. (1) Prior to this digitization of records, the only way to search for a copyright was to search the copyright card catalog, housed in the Library of Congress. (2) Unless the interested party had reason to make the trip to Washington, D.C., to search the copyright card catalog, there was no way to determine the status of any copyright.

This aspect of the copyright system presents particular difficulties when a copyright has been altered. The Copyright Office allows for the submission of supplemental registrations to either correct or amplify an already accepted basic registration. (3) Corrections and amplifications can take many forms, one of which is to amend who is registered as an author on a copyright. (4) However, since the Copyright Office does not notify authors of such changes, without a reason to think that a supplementary registration had been submitted, an author would likely not realize that his or her rights had been affected. Such are the circumstances of Barrett Strong, a songwriter who worked for Motown Records.

This comment will first discuss Mr. Strong's case. Next, existing case law surrounding establishment of copyright rights after the original copyright has been filed will be discussed. Finally, the existing policies and procedures of the Copyright Office regarding the alteration of copyrights will be discussed and changes to the Copyright Office's correction and amplification policies will be proposed as a way to help reduce issues such as the one currently faced by Mr. Strong.


Founded in 1959, Motown Records became famous for turning out such hits as "Dancing in the Street" and "Stop! In the Name of Love," (5) and for representing such artists as Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and the Supremes. (6) However, its first national hit came in 1959 with the song "Money (That's What I Want)" (hereinafter "Money"). (7) "Money" is currently at the center of a dispute surrounding who has the copyright in the song that is pitting a songwriter against Motown Records founder Berry Gordy. (8)

Barrett Strong began his music career as a session musician. (9) In 1959, Barrett Strong recorded "Money" for Motown Records. (10) The song was first registered with the Copyright Office in November 1959, and credited both Barrett Strong and Berry Gordy for words and music, as well as Janie Bradford for words. (11) The copyright was issued early in 1960 under Strong's name. (12) In 1962, however, Jobete Music, Motown's song-publishing company, (13) filed an amended copyright with the instruction to remove Strong's name from the copyright. Under the policy of the United States Copyright Office, Strong had three years to contest the amendment. (14)

In 1987, the copyright on "Money" was renewed, and Barrett Strong's name was re-added as an author, restoring his rights to the song. (15) The next year, however, Strong's name was once again removed--literally crossed out--from the copyright. …

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