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Dual song-writing authorship

Posted: Mon Apr 24, 2017 4:22 am
by Zidanite

I have attempted some research on this area but as the majority of sites seem to be American in origin then they have left me confused as to what the situation is here in the UK. I wonder if someone could clarify a couple of points for me.

1. In the dim and distant past an associate and myself co-authored a number of songs. I always supplied the lyrics and for the most part he supplied the music. On occasion I suggested a melody prior to his arrangement which he subsequently used as an impetus to his music but this happened infrequently. These songs were performed live at a number of venues and a handful of songs were recorded as a vanity project cd. I have since discovered he has recorded some of the songs where I supplied the lyrics. These can be purchased on Amazon or viewed on Youtube. My permission has never been sought for usage of my lyrics. Is this a breach of copyright law?

2. If I supply the lyrics to a song in a creative partnership who owns what? Do we both own 100% of the song and therefore can rerecord or perform the songs without seeking permission?

Posted: Mon Apr 24, 2017 8:10 am
by AndyJ
Hi Zidanite

The two parts of a song - the lyrics and the music- are treated as separate types of works for copyright purposes, and therefore if the composer and lyricist are separate people, as in your case, they will each own the copyright in their own work. If your suggestions about a melody were particularly important then it is possible that in the cases where that happened, you might qualify as a joint author of the music. However this is quite a tricky area to give hard and fast rules about, especially if the other person is likely to dispute your contribution. Take a look at the two court cases I mentioned in a previous thread to give yourself an idea about what have previously been considered as significant contributions which counted as joint authorship.

But as far as your lyrics are concerned, the other person should have sought your permission to perform the songs. It may be that he thought there was an implied permission due to the fact that you had already performed the songs together for the vanity CD. However, irrespective of that issue, you are entitled to royalties arising from any sales of his recordings and from any fees for live performances of the songs. You don't mention if there was a record company involved in the issue of these recordings, but if so, they would be the first people to contact, assuming that you are no longer in contact with the composer.

I also suggest you contact PRS for Music and register your interest in the lyrics, and let them sort out the royalties issue. This would also be useful if anyone else wanted to perform covers of the songs.

So just to summarise, unless you want to claim joint writing of some of the melodies, the copyright in the two parts of the songs are owned separately and permission would be need from each copyright owner, to perform or publish any of the songs. What is more, you are entitled to be credited as the author of lyrics, but you need to assert this right.

Dual authorship.

Posted: Mon Apr 24, 2017 8:40 am
by Zidanite
Hi AndyJ

Many thanks for your speedy response.

This is what I thought was the case. When we wrote the songs I did a little research and was under the impression that even I could not use my own lyrics in another format (for example as poetry) as they originaly formed part of a song (creative colaboration).
I think in the U.S. each of the song-writers own 100% each?

We did not have a recording contract or distribution arrangement.
The issue is primarily one of principle. Lyrics that I wrote are being performed and made available for sale without any permission from myself or indeed any mention of myself as far as I can ascertain. If any royalties are due I doubt they would amount to much, but when one reads a review praising a song where I not only wrote the lyrics but sang the melody to my fellow song-writer before he thought of a tune - well it's galling to say the least.

I will follow up on some of the suggestions you have made.

Once again many thanks.