Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Phonorecord Definition:

Material object in which sounds are fixed and from which the sounds can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated.

Related Terms: Audiovisual Work

Chapter 17 of the US Code (Copyright) defines a phonorecord at §101:

Phonorecords are material objects in which sounds, other than those accompanying a motion picture or other audiovisual work, are fixed by any method now known or later developed, and from which the sounds can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.

"The term phonorecords includes the material object in which the sounds are first fixed."

In Leadsinger Inc. v BMG Music Publishing, the plaintiff distributed a karaoke machine, an all-in-one microphone player that has recorded songs imbedded on a microchip within the microphone-player. It had a license to produce phonorecords but the defendant argued that the plaintiff had exceeded the terms of the copyright license with the karaoke device.

Justice Phillips of the United States District Court (California) agreed:

"The definition of phonorecord explicitly states that it is a material object in which sounds are fixed. Plaintiff's device, by its own admission, contains more than sounds. The microchip contains visual images and lyrics that can be displayed, in addition to the music. Defendant correctly argues that the definition of phonorecords does not include sounds and visual representations of song lyrics or any other language to that effect. The definition explicitly limits a phonorecord to an object which fixes sounds, and Plaintiff's device contains sounds, and visual images and lyrics. Thus, Plaintiffs device is not within the statutory definition of a phonorecord."


  • Leadsinger, Inc. v. BMG Music Publishing, 429 F. Supp. 2d 1190 (2005)

Categories & Topics:

Always looking up definitions? Save time with our search provider (modern browsers only)

If you find an error or omission in Duhaime's Law Dictionary, or if you have suggestion for a legal term, we'd love to hear from you!