Performing co-written musical work

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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Bruce
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Performing co-written musical work

Post by Bruce » Mon Jul 23, 2007 3:06 pm

Hello there,

I have a question relating to UK copyright laws and performance of co-written musical works.....

My band has recently parted ways with its lead singer / lyricist.

We share the copyrights on the songs as they were created as co-written works - band members each writing their own distinct parts.

We are intending to go on by replacing our our singer / lyricist.

The ex-singer has said that we are not allowed to perform these pieces. Where do we stand legally with this? Is he able to stop us playing the songs we co-wrote together? Just the parts he wrote? Or neither?

Any help would be great.

Bruce (and therest of the warbela's)

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CopyrightAid
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Post by CopyrightAid » Tue Jul 24, 2007 12:44 pm

Hi Bruce and welcome to the forum.

My heart goes out to you, what a dark and messy situation you have found yourself in.... It's precisely because of this type of issue that band agreements are used, but I guess it's too late for that eh ;)

The bottom line is he will own the copyright to work that he created, so if you don't use the parts he wrote you are fine. But of course in a band, even that can be contentious: If we assume that the singer wrote his own lyrics, did he also write the melody of the lyrics? Does this mean that changing the lyric but using the same melody is breaching his copyright? - probably yes.

If you can, I would urge you to try and come to an amicable agreement with the ex-singer.

If I can flip this on it's head, does the ex-singer want to perform the songs as well? If so this could be the leverage you need. It is quite common for vocalists and bands that have parted ways to both perform the songs they wrote together. Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne, David Lee Roth and Van Halen are a couple of examples that immediately spring to mind.


So what if you carried on playing the songs? From a legal viewpoint, if both parties dig their heels in, its a mess.
In an band environment where so much of the creative process occurs because the ideas are bouncing between all the members it can be impossible to pin down who wrote what, and of course as soon as you start 'chopping up' the song everyone loses because the song is destroyed.
If it went to arbitration, (which would cost a lot), as I see it there are only two possible outcomes.
1. Agree to share.
2. Agree a price for the other party to hand over their claim and walk away.

Bottom line: If the songs mean that much to you, come to some agreement with the ex-singer.

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Band agreements

Post by CopyrightAid » Tue Jul 24, 2007 12:48 pm

Although it's too late Bruce, For future reference ;)

Yes, I know it's a drag, but band agreements are worth their weight in gold if a band later parts in less than amicable circumstances.

The following sites have information to help formulate an agreement:
http://www.copyrightservice.co.uk/prote ... agreements
http://www.leonardlowy.co.uk/Band%20Agreement.htm
http://www.cultfound.org/GroupMembershipAgreement.html
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio1/onemusic/le ... gp01.shtml

Bruce
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hmmmm...

Post by Bruce » Wed Jul 25, 2007 9:17 am

In fact we did actually have a band agreement (clearly stating that the songs are co-written by the band, or cover versions) in place that the letter from our singer's solicitor seems to have ignored, tho' she did include the agreement in her package. The singer seems to be claiming sole ownership not only of songs he co-wrote with the band, but of songs written and performed by other artists.

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Post by CopyrightAid » Wed Jul 25, 2007 9:26 am

Really??

What did the agreement say happened to the songs when a member leaves?

Bruce
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Post by Bruce » Wed Jul 25, 2007 9:33 am

In clause 1 it says "...we agree that any future financial success will result in fair payment and recognition of all members of the Group, past and present..."

Clause 5 adds "Further recordings merit credit for any member of the band, present or future, who contributes original material."

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Post by CopyrightAid » Wed Jul 25, 2007 12:29 pm

What I meant was to say was is there anything that covers whether the band can continue to use the songs? When you said you had an agreement, I was hoping that it would contain something to that effect.

As you explain it, it sounds like he is being unreasonable, but if he is claiming that he is the sole author of the songs you do have a difficult task ahead. The 'singer-songwriter' is historically in a strong position. If he wrote the lyrics, they are his, and it is easy to see that he could claim to have come up with the underlying melody and that the band are merely accompaniment. Of course there are 3,4 or 5? of you to back up your claim and only 1 of him.




If the songs mean that much to, it's worth talking this over with a solicitor.

- Sorry, not really being much help :(

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