Compendium of U.S. Copyright Practices, 3rd Edition

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802.6 (C) (1) Harmonization

802.6 (C) (1) Harmonization

Harmonization is the addition of chords or musical lines to a melody. To be copyrightable, the addition of chords to a melody must constitute sufficient new and original authorship, not simply standard chords in common sequences such as C, F, G, C. The harmonization of a melody using multiple musical lines involves additional compositional creative factors, such as voicing and counterpoint.


• An applicant submits an application to register words and a musical arrangement of a preexisting melody. The work is comprised solely of the chord symbols C (major), Am (minor), Dm (minor), and G (major) along with original words. The arrangement is not registrable because this chord sequence is both standard and too short to be sufficiently creative. The accompanying words, however, may be registered if they are sufficiently creative.

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