US copyright law requires that, in order to be eligible for protection, a creative work be fixed in a tangible medium. Therefore, a performer cannot have a copyright in his performance. However, if the performer records the performance he may have copyright in the sound recording.
The creativity in the process of creating a sound recording involves not only the performance of the singer but also the input of the instrumentalists, musical director and engineers. Because so many people collaborate in the creation of a sound recording, the issue of ownership is difficult to resolve. This issue is mostly resolved by contracts. It is important for performers of music to remember that they are likely to have a copyright in the sound recording, unless they sign those rights away.
Copyright in sound recordings was introduced in 1972. Copyright law is a federal law. It was enacted by the Congress of the United States and is applicable uniformly through out the United States. However, the state of New York protects rights in sound recordings created before 1972. This protection will continue to exist until 2067.