Copyright Compendium

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Chapter 100
Chapter 200
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Chapter 1700
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Chapter 2100
Chapter 2200
Chapter 2300
Chapter 2400

802.5 (B) Creative Expression

 

802.5 (B) Creative Expression

 

To be copyrightable, a musical work must contain a sufficient amount of creative musical expression. Generally, the musical and lyrical elements of the work are considered separately in determining whether there is sufficient creative expression. There is no predetermined number of notes, measures, or words that automatically constitutes de minimis authorship or automatically qualifies a work for copyright registration. However, short musical phrases are not copyrightable because they lack a sufficient amount of authorship (just as words and short textual phrases are not copyrightable). See 37 C.F.R. § 202.1 (A); see also Chapter 300, Section 313.4 (C). For example, the phrase, “I love you so much it hurts” is both too short and too lacking in creative spark to be registrable. Similarly, a short phrase of only a few musical notes, such as clock chimes or “mi do re sol, sol, re mi do” would be considered too short and too lacking in creative expression to be registrable.