Thursday, July 23, 2015

Music Business/Law Tips - "Joint Work"

If a song is written by 2 or more people with the intent to merge their respective parts (i.e., words and music) to create a brand new copyright – that is considered a “joint work”. Even though each part contributed is separate, once merged each writer co-owns the entire work. In other words, the lyric writer would then co-own the music portion, and vice versa. Under the Copyright Act, for a “first use mechanical license” (i.e., first release recording/cover) all the writers must sign off. However, for all other types of non-exclusive licenses (e.g., synchs), either writer can license the song on behalf of all co-authors, so long as all the writers are properly credited and paid for their shares. If a writer/artist does not want to create a joint work – he/she needs to make sure to have a written agreement with the producer, arranger and musicians that such third parties’ creative contributions are “works made for hire”, so they cannot claim they are a co-writer. Ben McLane Esq


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  2. "In a joint work, the joint authors hold undivided interests in a work, despite any differences in each author's contribution. 17 U.S.C. � 201. Each author as co-owner has the right to use or to license the use of the work, subject to an accounting to the other co-owners for any profits. Childress v. Taylor, 945 F.2d 500, 505 (2d Cir. 1991); Weinstein v. University of Illinois, 811 F.2d 1091, 1095 (7th Cir. 1987); 1 Nimmer on Copyright, � 6.02, at 6-7 to 6-8. Thus, even a person whose contribution is relatively minor, if accorded joint authorship status, enjoys a significant benefit. See Community for Creative Non-Violence v. Reid, 846 F.2d 1485, 1498 (D.C.Cir. 1988), aff'd on other grounds, 490 U.S. 730, 109 S.Ct. 2166, 104 L.Ed.2d 811 (1989); Nimmer, � 6.08, at 6-24." ERICKSON v. TRINITY THEATRE, INC., 13 F.3d 1061 (7th Cir. 1994)