"Alternative lyrics" are those lyrics are written to the music of an existing song. An example would be "My Country "Tis of Thee" written to the tune of "God Save the Queen."

My understanding is that if you put the alternative lyrics to the sheet music of the original song without permission, that would be copyright infringement. (You've copied the music.)

But suppose you publish the alternative lyrics on a "standalone" basis (without the music in any form). Would the fact that it can "sing" to someone else's song be copyright infringement even if there were no "substantial similarity" in the lyrics?

  • The answer is in your question. You seem to understand the issue perfectly. Cheers!!
    – closetnoc
    Commented Jul 8, 2016 at 15:59

1 Answer 1


Original lyrics that would otherwise be non-infringing do not become infringing just because somebody might choose to sing those lyrics to an existing melody.

The person who chooses to sing those lyrics to an existing melody, however, may be infringing that melody.

  • Yes, if sung in public for profit.
    – Libra
    Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 16:32
  • Or fixed in private for nonprofit distribution. Or transmitted to the public by radio. Or any other thing from 17 USC 106
    – user3851
    Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 16:38
  • Of course they could get permission from the copyright holder of the melody. Usually involves exchange of money.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 7:51

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