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

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802.6(J) Method Books

802.6(J) Method Books

Instructional books for learning to play an instrument are sometimes known as method books. Method books typically contain common property elements such as scales, arpeggios, chord charts, and musical examples taken from preexisting sources. They also may contain original elements, such as instructional text, new music, and original musical exercises. If a method book contains sufficient copyrightable text and/or new music, the application will be accepted on that basis.

A method book that contains only previously published material or chords, scales, exercises, and other information that is common property may be registered as a compilation (i.e., based on the selection, coordination, and/or arrangement of the preexisting material, as defined under 17 U.S.C. § 101) if it contains at least a minimal amount of compilation authorship. If the compilation authorship is de minimis, the claim cannot be registered. For example, a compilation of all the diatonic major and minor scales would not constitute sufficient creative compilation authorship, because the selection and arrangement is dictated by the Western musical scale system.

For a general discussion of compilations, see Chapter 500, Section 508.

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