Tina and Ben both own the song in a sense because each has contributed to its creation. However, each owns a different element of the song: Tina wrote the tune, so she is the owner of the melody, while Ben wrote the words, so he owns the lyrics. This means that if someone wished to use just the melody of the song, they would need only Tina’s permission. For commercial reasons, songwriters may come to an agreement to take equal credit for melody and lyrics even if their contributions are not equal. One of the most famous song writing partnerships of all, Lennon and McCartney, are an example of such an arrangement. You can find more information about ownership of copyright works here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/ownership-of-copyright-works

Copyright law protects against copying so the song must be ‘original’ and in some ‘fixed’ form (that could be copied). Tina and Ben could fix the song by recording it on a mobile phone or any other means of doing so, e.g. by writing it on a piece of paper. They choose to record it on their computer and that immediately ‘activates’ copyright protection for them both. There is no need to register the copyright as protection is automatic.

Ben seems to be worrying about ‘originality’ when he says they might need proof they created the song first. There are steps that creators can take to help prove their ownership, should this ever be disputed.  For example, some creators send themselves a copy of their work by registered post or mark their work with the copyright symbol © followed by their names and the year in which the work was created or published: e.g. © Tina Treble and Benjamin Bass 2016. However, this is not essential for copyright protection.

The exact meaning of ‘originality’ is not defined in UK legislation but it is guided by facts and judgements from case law. In the UK, courts have set a fairly low bar for satisfying the requirement of originality: so long as the creation of the work involves some labour, skill, judgement or effort, and it is the authors’ own intellectual creation, the work will be considered original and so protected by copyright.

Protection and earning money from the song are different matters, however, and to obtain any financial reward, Tina and Ben need to perform the song (or let someone else perform it) and register it with a collecting society (Track 6), and maybe also get a contract with a record label (Track 4) or decide to release their song themselves on the internet (Track 5).

More Tracks

1. What constitutes a song?

A song is the combination of melody and words. Each is protected by copyright: the melody as a musical work and the lyrics as a literary work. One or the other could be used separately and still be protected.

3. Sound Recording Rights

The copyright in a sound recording is different from the copyright in a song in a number of significant ways.

4. Publishing and Recording Deals

Traditionally there are two main types of contracts or ‘deals’ musicians are likely to seek in order to reach a wider audience: a music publishing deal and a record deal.

6. Public Performance, Royalties and Collecting Societies

To reduce transaction costs for rights holders and rights users alike, collecting societies have been established in order to collectively negotiate and issue blanket licences to users, and to collect and distribute royalties to rights holders.

7. Licences

Aside from lyrics and melody of the song, and the recording of the music, copyright also subsists in the script, the artwork, the voiceover and the film/video itself.