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Songwriters who create lyrics—the words that go with songs—as opposed to composers who write the music of the song, which may include but is not limited to its melody, harmony, arrangement and accompaniment—are referred to as lyricists or lyrists.

The revenue of a lyricist is derived from royalties collected from the sale of original songs. If the song was written mainly with the composer, royalties may be as high as 50% of the song's value, or as low as 5% if the song was created in cooperation with the composer. If a song is in a physical form, such as a recording or sheet music, it is immediately protected by copyright protection laws. Nonetheless, before a song is released or made publicly available, its creator or publisher should register it with the Copyright Office at the United States Library of Congress in order to better protect themselves against copyright infringement.