Whenever two people sit down to write a song together, they create a "joint work" and both of the writers own the song. Although each person may create a distinct part (such as the lyrics or the music), each writer has an interest in the entire work. In other words, a situation where there are different contributions to just one song is analogous to having the co-writers pouring small glasses of water into one large glass; it is virtually impossible separate the parts.
For example, if A writes only the music and B writes only the lyrics, B still owns half of the music and lyrics, as does A. When there is a joint work, either of the writers can deal nonexclusively with the entire song, subject to the obligation to pay the other writer(s) his/her share of the net profits. Therefore, it is advisable that the writers enter into a collaboration agreement which sets forth how the profits should be split if it is intended that the split be anything which deviates from a 50/50 ratio. Fortunately, a collaboration agreement can be quite simple and need only include a few major points:
First, the title of the song collaborated on must be listed in the agreement.
Second, the writers must agree to divide any and all net profits received from the sale of the song. To do this, next to the composer's name, there needs to be a percentage share he/she is entitled to. It should be specified whether the composer contributed music and/or lyrics.
[part 2 next week]
ben mclane esq