DO I OWN MY OWN COPYRIGHT, PLEASE HELP!

Copyright matters affecting music and musicians.
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Paddy63
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DO I OWN MY OWN COPYRIGHT, PLEASE HELP!

Post by Paddy63 » Mon Mar 17, 2008 6:41 pm

Hi, this is my first post so I'll TRY to keep it as short as possible.

My situation is that I am a singer/songwriter and I am starting to have some success on my own after several years of struggle. One of my most popular songs is a new version of a song I wrote when I was in a band many years ago (when I had hair and considerably less sense!). The melody and lyrics and some of the chord structure are the same but the arrangement and everything else are completely different.

When we were in the band (a three piece) the unwritten agreement was that everything we ever made from music would be split equally between the three of us. With this being the understanding, one of the group members organised the copyright by sending copies of the recording to himself (dated etc) and putting it under the name of the band (e.g (c) 2008 The Rolling Stones)...I should point out at this moment that I wasn't actually in The Rolling Stones, the jeans were too tight and Mick got really annoying in rehearsals.....

There was never any dispute between us as to who had actually written the songs and I never had a problem with splitting everything three ways at the time because I'm not a greedy person. :lol:

Anyway, since then the band member who holds the copyrights has gone on to have some success running his own business. I e-mailed both of the former members to confirm that they were ok for me to continue to use the song and that if the matter ever arose if I was approached by a record company they would not suddenly come out of the closet and say they wanted £x from me for using the song. I also put in the e-mail that I would be glad to give them something off the back of any success I had, even though I don't feel I'm obliged to.

One of the members wrote back to me saying that he would never consider making a claim to something he had no involvement in writing. However, the other member (who originally sent off the material for copyright) made a comment about how he still held a copy of the original and that he would be "pretty annoyed" if he didn't get something if I made anything from the song! Some friend! Some time later, the "good" former member wrote an e-mail confirming he wouldn't stand in my way but the "bad" former member wrote a bit of a jokey e-mail which didn't clearly state that he waived any right to the song.

Can someone confirm where I actually stand with regard to this? If it comes down to it I will drop the song but I would be really upset to do so.

Many thanks

P63

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CopyrightAid
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Post by CopyrightAid » Tue Mar 18, 2008 9:56 am

I am afraid to say that there is not a simple answer to this.

If you wrote the song, yes you will (at least initially) be the copyright owner. Without any other factors being known, I would say that provided the new version does not include any parts written by the other band members you would be the copyright owner.

There is however the matter of the 'unwritten agreement', where you agreed that the rights to each song should be split 3 ways.

Ultimately, if the 'bad' band member really wants to cause trouble, he could. If the situation is as you describe it, I doubt he would get 1/3 share if the case went to tribunal, but he might get something. You would have to make some significant money before it would be worth the legal costs though.

Paddy63
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Post by Paddy63 » Tue Mar 18, 2008 3:20 pm

That's great, thank you very much for the info, I appreciate the advise. If I end up making a significant amount of money from it I'll be happy enough to share it anyway I reckon. Thanks for the information on the site and in the forum too, good job

P63

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