Not generally, but there can be complications in certain situations.
You write 10 country songs and copyright them as the "My 2011 Collection". So far, so good.
Then you start pitching the songs to publishers in Nashville, and one of them offers you a publishing deal on one of them. They are drawing up a single-song contract for you to sign today. Awesome!
Here's the hitch:
A publishing contract is a contract in which the songwriter surrenders the copyright of their song to a publisher, in return for some percentage (usually 50%) of any money the publisher makes from it. In other words, once you sign the contract, the publisher OWNS your copyright. You have given it away.
You see the problem now, right? Because the registered copyright is for a collection of songs, as opposed to a single song, the publisher could make a case that they have ownership of the ENTIRE collection.
Note: this is one reason why I always insist on a "reversion clause" in any publishing contract I sign. It automatically reverts ownership of the copyright back to me after a set period of time, usually 24 months, if the publisher has failed to get the song recorded by an artist during that time.
>>You see the problem now, right? Because the registered copyright is for a collection of songs, as opposed to a single song, the publisher could make a case that they have ownership of the ENTIRE collection.<<
Any publishing agreement for a song is going to have, either in the body of the agreement itself, or in a separate exhibit attached to the agreement, a list of the specific songs covered in the agreement. Most agreements list the name of the song, all writers and lyricists, i.e., all rights holders, and each person's performance rights organization (SESAC, ASCAP or BMI).
If a song's not listed, no right transfers to the publisher, as a transfer or ownership must be in writing (or confirmed by a writing) under the copyright law.
I honestly don't see a publisher trying to overreach like this; it's a very remote possibility that someone would try this tactic, and I think the publisher would lose in court.
It would be very, very risky for the publisher to try something this stupid; he'd be exposing himself or his company to lawsuits from labels, the original writer, the artist, and any sub-publishers or licensees. This is because standard agreements between publishers and labels or licensees include a warranty that the publisher has secured all of the rights to a tune, and contain an indemnification agreement in the event of a breach of this warranty. The publisher would generally agree to defend and hold harmless the artist and label against all suits, damages or claims, including attorneys' fees. Plus the loser in a copyright case pays the winner's legal fees in addition to damages. Who'd be foolish enough to expose themselves to liability like this?
In any event, this remote possibility can easily be avoided with a well-drafted publishing agreement reciting the manner of registration, and specifically excluding all but the listed song from a transfer of the copyright. It's simple enough to state that only the song or songs listed are subject to the agreement, and that writer retains the copyrights to all other songs registered with the compilation, and retains all rights to all other songs the writer wrote, etc.
In addition, the song can be registered using the traditional form in a matter of minutes, even if the SR form was used originally. So the smart songwriter, worried about these circumstances, sees his or her lawyer, and also files the standard form before signing a publishing agreement.
Moreover, I've never seen a publisher force someone to sign a publishing agreement the same day, and not give the writer time to have the agreement reviewed by counsel. It's just not something I'd worry about.
Though, as I stated in my original post on this stuff, the best and least challengeable way to register a copyright of a recorded song is to do it both ways, using the traditional form and the SR form. I recommend this as the ultimate form of protection.
One last note: there is something called a co-publishing agreement, whereby the writer retains a share of publishing. This does not completely transfer title to the copyright, but splits the copyright ownership according to the terms of the co-publishing agreement. So if you're getting 50% of the publishing, there's no need to completely transfer title to the copyright. It can be split. The money's the same to the publisher either way.
The benefit to the songwriter of a co-publishing deal is that consent to a deal may under certain circumstances be withheld; whereas, in the case of a single publisher holding the rights, the writer doesn't have the power to withhold consent to a deal (unless that right is specifically reserved in the agreement). This can be of benefit in the case of, say, a synchronization license, which can generate substantial upfront fees, as the licensee has to please two parties - both co-publishers. This is one reason why many publishers don't like co-publishing deals, but many will do them.
Thanks guys. Les i think you confirmed my side of a friendly debate i was having on this exact issue with a bandmate. We can always stipulate via the contract that it is one song in the collection that applies.