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Music ownership - work for hire

 
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composer123
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2011 3:50 pm    Post subject: Music ownership - work for hire Reply with quote

I am composing a score for an eBook - in many ways it's similar to a film score.

I'm engaged as a composer as work for hire so the director will own all recordings, sheet music, roughs etc.

The one big question is whether he then owns the melodies themselves? i.e - if the book gets made into a film or TV series, could the production company use a different composer to use my melodies and create new arrangements?

Obviously this would depend on the wording of the contract, but I am interested to know what the standard agreement would usually be, particularly in the world of film and TV.

Any advice would be much appreciated!

Many thanks
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AndyJ
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2011 7:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Composer,
First off, the term 'work for hire' is normally associated with US Copyright law, so it is worth checking with you in which jurisdiction this contract will operate, as US and UK law differ somewhat on this subject.

However if this is happening in the UK, as a composer you will be the author and first owner of copyright in the melodies and from what you have said, it seems that your copyright will then be assigned to the company which hires/commsssions you as part of the contract. Even though you may have transferred the copyright, you retain the moral right to be credited as the author. As the author and first owner of copyright you have certain so-called exploitation rights - for instance, in sound recordings, broadcasts etc - which you will also be expected to sign away along with your copyright. So for all practical purposes (other than the moral right) you lose control of your work, and the production company will be able to do pretty much what they want as far as making new arrangements etc of your melody. There is one exception. You also have the moral right not to have your work treated in a derogatory way such that it would damage your reputation as a composer. It is for this reason that certain film directors have demanded their name be removed from the credits of films they directed because the studios have insisted on editing in a way which the director disapproved of.

Bear in mind that copyright in the music industry is incredibly complicated, and in order that you don't get taken for a ride, make sure you do as much research as possible on the current rates for the kind of work you are undertaking. The Musicians Union is a good place to start. Also take a look at these websites if you haven't already visited them: http://www.musiclawadvice.co.uk/copy.htm and http://www.bemuso.com/musicbiz/
If this contract is going to operate under US law, some of the legal details will be different and you should find a US site which can offer you better advice than I can.
Good luck
Andy
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Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007
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composer123
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2011 12:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Andy,

Many thanks indeed for such a quick and helpful answer, that answers my question.

I'm being paid quite reasonably for the job, so no worries there.

Jamie
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