Part 2. Copyright on Songs. The Basics:
What Songs Can Have a Copyright? / Tangible Form



Part 2. Copyright on Songs. The Basics:
What Songs Can Have a Copyright? / Tangible Form.
by Sue Basko

This is part two of a four-part series. Please read all the parts. This is not legal advice and may not apply to your particular situation. You should consult with an attorney.

To go to the other lessons, click on them:

What Songs Can Have a Copyright?

To be eligible to have a copyright, a song must be:

1) Original;

2) Creative;

3) Set in tangible form.

Tangible Form - What is it?

Let's look at these three elements, starting with "tangible form." For copyright to exist, the work must be set into "tangible form." Tangible means that it can be touched. What does this mean in practice? It means that if you just think about a song, it does not have copyright. If you hum a song or sing a song, it does not have copyright. If you play a song on a guitar or piano, in front of a big audience, that still does not give it copyright.

You must set the song into tangible form. What does this mean, exactly?

LYRICS: You must write them on paper, or on a computer. They must be WRITTEN down someplace, by some means. OR you can RECORD them using an audio or video recorder. There must be a physical, tangible record of them that you could give to someone. That physical record might be digital and the means of giving it might be over the internet.

MUSIC: You must WRITE sheet music or notations. OR you must make a RECORDING of the music, either audio or video. This is the same as with the lyrics.

The production of the media used to create the tangible form does not have to be fancy. This means that you do not have to hire musicians and go into a studio. It means you can write the lyrics on a pad of paper and make a little recording at home.

So you see, if you have a decent home computer, you can easily type up the lyrics and make a little recording of the music. You will have the lyrics in a word file and the music as a file, usually a WAV, AIFF, or mp3 file. With the music in a computer file, you can easily register copyright online. I'll explain that in Lesson 4.

In the upcoming lessons, we'll look at "creative" and "original."

From this lesson, just remember:

For Copyright to exist on a song, it must be:
1) Original;
2) Creative; and
3) Set in tangible form.

And the most useful tangible forms for your purposes today will be to get your lyrics into a computer file word document and
your music into a computer audio file.
The types of files accepted by the Copyright Office are listed in Lesson 4.


Take care and I hope you will read all the lessons as I put them up here. -- Sue

CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE NEXT LESSON or use the Table of Contents on the right to find the page you wish to read next.