How to Copyright a Jingle

By Victoria McGrath

A jingle automatically qualifies for basic copyright protection the instant it is created and fixed in a tangible form. The copyright applies to the jingle lyrics, melody, musical composition, sound recordings and musical performances. Copyrights cover all original work of authorship created by a single creator or multiple creators. Jingles often require the collaboration of multiple creators, who potentially work for an advertising company or large corporation. The company owns the copyrights of a jingle created through the collaboration of its employees, unless otherwise negotiated.

Basic Copyright Protection

An owner of a jingle automatically secures basic copyrights in the jingle, once it is created and documented. Each copyrightable element of the jingle needs to be documented, individually or collectively. Once the songwriter writes down the lyrics, they qualify for copyright protection. Once the composer creates the sheet music, it qualifies for copyright protection. The lyrics and melody can be performed and recorded in a sound recording collectively. All four elements would qualify for copyright protection: the lyrics, the melody, the performance and the sound recording. The creation and documentation of the jingle in a tangible form gives the owner copyrights in the jingle and the exclusive right to use the jingle.

Creators and Collaborators

When a jingle is produced by an individual creator, he potentially owns the copyright as the author of the original work. If the jingle is produced by multiple creators, they all collectively own the copyrights to the jingle. All creators and their contributions are listed in the optional copyright registration application. Jingles created by individual or multiple creators, while employed or commissioned by a company, are owned by the company. The company may claim legal ownership of the copyrights, unless a written agreement in the employment contact states otherwise. All jingles created in the scope of employment are considered work for hire. The company owns copyrights to all work for hire.

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Optional Copyright Registration

The owner of the copyright obtains exclusive ownership without any formal registration requirement. Federal copyright registration through the U.S. Copyright Office is optional. The Copyright Office accepts copyright registration applications in seven broad categories: literary works, dramatic works, musical compositions, choreographed works, motion pictures, sound recordings, architecture and pictorial, graphic and sculptural work. A jingle can be registered as a musical composition with accompanying words or a sound recording. Any performance of the jingle could potentially be registered as a dramatic work with accompanying music. Alternatively, a jingle uploaded in a video on the Internet qualifies as an audiovisual work under the motion pictures category.

Copyright Registration for a Jingle

The legal copyright owner of a jingle may register his jingle through the U.S. Copyright Office as a musical composition or sound recording. The copyright registration application requires a complete application, with the name of the owner, name of all creators and their individual contributions, type of work, title of the work, date of creation and a certification of legal ownership. Online applications are submitted through the electronic Copyright Office, also known as the eCO. Paper applications can be mailed to the Copyright Office. Online legal document providers familiar with the copyright application process can help you file the applicable documents.

Mandatory Deposit Requirement

A deposit of the copyright material must be sent in to the Libarary of Congress through the Copyright Office. A musical composition requires the best edition of the published or unpublished work. Published work includes all work that is made available to the public with unrestricted access. Unpublished work has restricted access. Most published works require two copies to be deposited, as opposed to one copy for unpublished works. The Copyright Act requires the legal owner of a work published in the United States to deposit the required copies with the Library of Congress, regardless of optional registration.

Best Edition Requirement

The best edition of the work may be sent in as a printed copy of the vocal music with accompanying orchestration and instrumental music, or a phonographic record on a compact disc or in another format. Best edition refers to a complete and undamaged copy of the work. The deposit may be uploaded with the electronic application or mailed in with the paper application. Hard copies still need to be mailed in for published works.

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