Jan 18, 2011, 22:17

When we launched MusicRevolution and received our 1st round of music submissions, a legal question quickly surfaced: Can song titles be copyrighted?

A great example is “Crazy”. Here’s a song title that means two totally different things to two different generations. Ask anyone born before 1965 to hum “Crazy” and they’re think you’re talking about the Patsy Cline hit written by Willie Nelson.

Ask anyone born after 1990 and they’ll assume you mean the pop anthem performed by Danger Mouse.

Here’s an excerpt from the US Copyright Office website that answers the question if song titles can be copyrighted:

Copyright law does not protect names, titles, or short phrases or expressions. Even

if a name, title, or short phrase is novel or distinctive or lends itself to a play on

words, it cannot be protected by copyright. The Copyright Office cannot register

claims to exclusive rights in brief combinations of words such as:

Names of products or services

Names of businesses, organizations, or groups (including the names of

performing groups)

Pseudonyms of individuals (including pen or stage names)

Titles of works

Catchwords, catchphrases, mottoes, slogans, or short advertising expressions

Listings of ingredients, as in recipes, labels, or formulas. When a recipe or

formula is accompanied by an explanation or directions, the text directions

may be copyrightable, but the recipe or formula itself remains copyrightable.

So if song titles are NOT copyrightable, does that mean www.musicrevolution.com allows any and every submitted royalty-free music title through? Actually no. We normally decline tracks that contain profanity or incendiary phrases. That’s not censorship from a legal standpoint, but rather from a product standpoint. Our customer base contains educational institutions, students and government agencies. We’d like to know our site that can be used in mixed company.

Mike Bielenberg


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