Introduction to Common Works Registration

Playlist of videos about Common Works Registration (CWR) and related tools. It is a good place to start, then come back to these articles.

Common Works Registration (CWR) is a protocol and data format for the registration of musical works. Ideally, a publisher creates a single CWR file and sends it to societies all over the world. Societies return acknowledgement files defined in the same standard. In reality, things are far from ideal, but CWR is still used worldwide.

The official documentation on CWR is quite complex and it provides no examples. And without an example, it is virtually impossible to get it right. As a consequence, there are very few solutions that implement functional CWR. Until 2018, they were proprietary technology of major publishers or major software vendors, in both cases unavailable to small publishers.

We provide various services, based on our own proprietary software, and some of them include creating, importing, exporting, validating or viewing of Common Works Registration files. I released free, open-source software for original music publishers that implements CWR, called Django Music Publisher. It is also available through a commercial service DMP Guru. Price is affordable and the first 30 days are free.

Please note that, in all articles, “CWR” refers to CWR version 2.1 Revision7, unless stated otherwise. CWR 2.2 is a dead-end, and 3.0 specs were only recently published, there is a dedicated section about Common Works Registration 3.0.

An Example of a CWR File

HDRPB000000199THE SENDER                                   01.102018032210203720180322
NWR0000000000000000THE WORK                                                      CLAIMDIGITAL01           00000000            POP000000Y      ORI         MRS. SMITH                                N00000000000
SPU000000000000000101HCJ3EBJT6THE PUBLISHER                                 E 00000000000000000297              0100250003405000   05000 N
SPU000000000000000201ILE7GIQMJTHE SENDER                                    AM00000000000000000199              0100000003400000   00000 N
SPT0000000000000003ILE7GIQMJ      025000500005000I2136N001
SWR00000000000000042RDRB3FHXDOE                                          JOHN                           CA0000000000000000039501002500   00000   00000 N
PWR0000000000000006HCJ3EBJT6THE PUBLISHER                                                            2RDRB3FHX
OWR0000000000000007JZL2GMGV3DOE                                          JANE                           CA00000000000000000000   05000   05000   05000 N
GRT000010000000100000010   0000000000

Yes, this is a content of a CWR file. This particular one was created in our Minimal CWR tool. You can download it and upload to the Visual CWR Validator. Or just have a look at the following screenshot, before digging into details.


CWR Format Explained

Well, it is pretty simple. There are records, which are basically rows.

The first row in a CWR file is a file header (HDR), containing information about the sender and few other things, and the last row is file trailer (TRL). Between them, there are one or more groups, each has a group header (GRH) and a group trailer (GRT). In each group, there are one or more transactions, which are a series of rows, usually describing one work, although there are other transaction types as well.

In the above example, CWR file has one group with one transaction describing a new work (NWR) originally named The Work, and if you have any question about the work, feel free to contact The Sender and ask for Mrs Smith. (That is what NWR row actually says!)

The rest of the lines state that John and Jane Doe have created The Work. The Publisher is representing John and not Jane. John collects 25% of performance rights directly, other 25% and 50% for mechanical and synchronization rights are owned by The Publisher and administered worldwide by The Sender. No original publisher for Jane has been specified.

Learning by Doing

If you want to learn more about CWR you are just in the right place. You may try to create your own first CWR with our Minimal CWR tool.

The resulting downloaded file can be opened in any text editor, and you can upload it to our Visual CWR Tool for detailed examination. You can repeat this process until you figure things out. Of course, there is the official documentation for all definitions.

If you would like to create CWR files with more than one work and with a more complex structure, the next step would be to download the official EBR template from MusicMark, fill it, and upload it to our EBR to CWR Conversion tool.

Please do understand that the resulting CWR, although it may be accepted in most societies and by all major sub-publishers, may not be what you expect it to be. Following these instructions, you may learn a lot, but this is still just scratching the surface.