parkt921k
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Join date: Mar 2008
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#1
Greets,

I figured this would be a good place to put this question.

My latest music project recently broke apart. It was basically me and another guy, my music partner, and we have had a total falling out. So, no relationship at all anymore.

My question relates to so-called "song rights". We recorded a 12 song album on his computer at his apartment (on his daw). He wrote (essentially) all of the music, and I wrote (essentially) all of the lyrics and sang (and came up with vocal melodies). I also played guitar on most of the tracks.

He wants to tell me that the 12 songs are somehow "taboo", meaning that I can't form a band and play any of these 12 songs, or that I can't even play them acoustically at a bar without his permission.

I am just curious as to what my rights are. I would really like to put a new band together, write some new stuff, and play 3 or 4 songs off the 12 song album.

I would assume I would have a '50/50' split of rights, meaning that I WOULD be able to form a band and play any of the songs I wish - even all 12!

If so, what would my obligations be? For right now, I'm just talking about getting a band together, teaching them some of these songs, and eventually play 10 or 20 shows, at least at first, including whatever of this album that I want.

This question is keeping me from starting a new band, because I don't know what to tell the guys I talk to.

Btw, tomorrow night I'll be around a few musicians who I would possibly invite to jam and maybe start something. Appreciate all responses!

Tom
ccannon1
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#3
Did you write the melody? Did you write the lyrics? iirc those are legally what a song is and if you've written those you're entitled to songwriting credits, and if you've played on these recordings you're entitled to performance credits, unless he somehow bought those rights from you.
parkt921k
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Join date: Mar 2008
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#4
yeah, I just read:

Now, for all intents and purposes, a "song" is comprised of lyrics and a melody for purposes of copyright. In general terms, drum beats, riffs, bass lines, etc. don't count. Just because you jammed with your buddies and came up with a full band arrangement of a bunch of chords and riffs strung together, you have not made up a song. You have made up an 'accompaniment' to a song. You most likely have no legal leg to stand on in terms of copyright.


And I wrote 99% of the lyrics, quite literally, and did about 95% of the work on melody lines. I say 95% and not 100%, because what we would do - we'd hit record, I'd have the headphones on with the mic on, I'd sing whatever came to mind, and we'd record 4 or so of what I called 'scratch-tracks'. We'd then go over them, pick out the good parts, and try to string one melody line together from the best of 4 (or however many). So, that 5% is the credit I'd give my music partner to 'his part' (i.e. arranging (right word?), not composing) of the vocal melody.

Anyways, it sounds like I'm in pretty good shape, that I (gulp) even have more rights to these songs than he does!

Sure, on the album, he did all the chord sequences, piano, synth, bass, drum programming, - but it doesn't sound like, from the paragraph above, that this means much.

This is actually really good news. Really
Last edited by parkt921k at Nov 22, 2012,
ccannon1
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#5
Quote by parkt921k
yeah, I just read:


And I wrote 99% of the lyrics, quite literally, and did about 95% of the work on melody lines. I say 95% and not 100%, because what we would do - we'd hit record, I'd have the headphones on with the mic on, I'd sing whatever came to mind, and we'd record 4 or so of what I called 'scratch-tracks'. We'd then go over them, pick out the good parts, and try to string one melody line together from the best of 4 (or however many). So, that 5% is the credit I'd give my music partner to 'his part' (i.e. arranging, not composing) of the vocal melody.

Anyways, it sounds like I'm in pretty good shape, that I (gulp) even have more rights to these songs than he does!

Sure, on the album, he did all the chord sequences, piano, synth, bass, drum programming, - but it doesn't sound like, from the paragraph above, that this means much.

This is actually really good news. Really


He might be entitled to more performance rights than you, which is simply the amount of money paid out to each person playing on the album, which I don't think is your issue right now.

The only thing you've got to do now is PROVE that you've written these things and get them copyrighted.
parkt921k
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Join date: Mar 2008
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#6
Yeah, I'm not even yet talking about selling the album at a future show, and figuring out how much money I should send to him.

It would be very easy for me to prove I wrote them. Many of the lyrics were of poems and such that I had posted on the songwriting forum, from 2006-2009. I also have the paper sheets that I originally wrote all the lyrics down on, during our late night songwriting processes. It's pretty much proof. Also, there's no way, even though we will always be on bad terms, that my music partner would lie and say that he wrote the lyrics or some such nonsense.

I was also wondering about copyrighting - If I should include him, or if I should just name myself. Hey, I'm just looking out for myself, right? But I don't want to do anything 'sneaky', i.e. if I owe him a certain kind of credit in the copyrighting process, then I'll damn well give it to him. What that is, I'm not sure.

But I just want to be clear - can I start telling musicians I meet, that I have the full right to play these songs with them live?

btw album is in the sig
Last edited by parkt921k at Nov 22, 2012,
parkt921k
samoKai
Join date: Mar 2008
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#7
My other point, is that it would be nice to be able to show my ex-music partner some proof on the internet somewhere that I have the rights to play these songs with a different band. Because I would want to inform him that I was starting a band to play these songs, before I started playing shows (I don't need his permission to start putting a band together, though - although he would probably say that I do, the over-controller..)
jazz_rock_feel
UG Resident
Join date: Jun 2006
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#8
Also, there's probably no (worthwhile) legal recourse for either of you. So this is really a question of whether you feel okay playing the songs without him. No one's suing anyone here unless you're both idiots with a lot of money to burn.
leony03
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#9
If you aren't charging money for people to see you play these songs, then I dont think it matters. Only when it comes to things like you charging entry or for an album with these songs on does it matter.

If you really are going down the copyright route, I would say include his name as he did write stuff. If you wrote the majority of the melodies (vocal or guitar etc), then I guess you have a bit more leverage.

I would just speak to him dude. That's the best way to sort it all out.
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Artemis Entreri
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#10
Proof and copyright are two differnet things. I've seen people get screwed from writing something first and having someone else copyright it. It's getting BETTER now with everything time and date stamped but still. If you truly want the rights to it, copyright it.
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#11
Honestly dude, who cares. Just play them and let him whine about it. If you perform the songs live he will get performance royalties (and so will you) as long as you file your setlists with ASCAP. The only way he could do something about it is if he sued you and he won't do that unless you had a hit.
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parkt921k
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Join date: Mar 2008
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#12
I'll be sure to copyright asap

If you aren't charging money for people to see you play these songs, then I dont think it matters. Only when it comes to things like you charging entry or for an album with these songs on does it matter.


That's the thing - I would plan on being paid to play these songs, and for this I would NOT send him any money. I would possibly plan on selling the 12 song album at future shows, including his writing credit written on the inside. For this, I would give him a 10% cut (just send the money directly to his bank account). Not anything more - I think this would be fair, considering I am talking about very small amounts of money here. IF it were to start getting bigger after a year or two, I would think then I could renegotiate, but believe me - I would not plan on earning more money than beer and gas money for at least a year or two.

I could talk to him, but he would likely be of the opinion that he is entitled to more than he actually is under law. If we're talking garage band status, a few little gigs here and there, I think I can pretty much safely say screw him. Exactly, what's he going to do - sue me? Good to hear I'm the one with the leverage . Thx for the responses
Robfreitag
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#13
Just use them, give him credit in the album cover, if you get a serious deal or make real money out of it, that's probably when you'll have to talk to him and maybe a lawyer.

But for now, it's not really that serious, not making much money so I don't think it matters.

Side note: reminded me of metallica / mustain relations on kill em all. except I think some of those songs were mostly Daves, not shared... Dont get into that kind of thing.
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swave75
Maggot Vest God
Join date: Feb 2008
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#14
Quote by Robfreitag
Just use them, give him credit in the album cover, if you get a serious deal or make real money out of it, that's probably when you'll have to talk to him and maybe a lawyer.

But for now, it's not really that serious, not making much money so I don't think it matters.

Side note: reminded me of metallica / mustain relations on kill em all. except I think some of those songs were mostly Daves, not shared... Dont get into that kind of thing.

This is what I was thinking. Make sure to give him any credit he deserves. And I believe since it was the two of you, things should be split 50/50. They are your songs too so don't hesitate to perform them live. Good luck.
zbarovsky
Registered User
Join date: Sep 2012
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#15
Look this exact same thing happened in my last band when my drummer left he wanted one of the songs because he had "done everything" even though he came up with like two lines for the song, but really you just gota come to an agreement and basically you should keep what you have done yourself and give him what he did himself if that screws you both over so be it you can write new stuff but thats just my opinion.
AlanHB
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#16
I'll just add my opinion as I've been through this a couple of times.

Firstly, the legal rights in this thread are pretty spot on. Copyright covers melody and lyrics, and rarely anything else.

Secondly, just because somebody else part or wholly wrote a song does not mean that you cannot perform that song in public. Cover bands are a perfect example of this. Usually a venue will have pre-paid a licence for artists to perform in their venue whatever songs they wish, and no copyright is infringed.

Thirdly, if you start playing with a new group of people it's quite possible that a new/different arrangement for the music will be made, so that's one consideration.

Fourthly, and most importantly, your reputation is everything. Although playing these songs is not legally infringing on anybody's rights, the ex-member may be hurt regardless and tell people that you "stole/took credit for his song".

The easiest way to address this situation is by simply stating before or after you play a couple of songs "hey these couple of songs were worked on by myself and my buddy Mr X, unfortunately we're no longer playing together but they turned out awesome. Cheers dude!" (Break into song).
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amonamarthmetal
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#17
Quote by AlanHB

Firstly, the legal rights in this thread are pretty spot on. Copyright covers melody and lyrics, and rarely anything else..

WTF, that means all the stuff in the tabs and chords section can be "stolen" or ripped off? ****ing copyright laws...
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AlanHB
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#18
Quote by amonamarthmetal
WTF, that means all the stuff in the tabs and chords section can be "stolen" or ripped off? ****ing copyright laws...


UG pays for the licence to host them. It is the reason that UG is the primary source (if not one of the only sources) of tabs on the internet.

If you're talking about someone taking a tab off UG then claiming it as their own, tabs/chords are far more likely to be covered as a literary work rather than a musical work. So say the chords in themselves, played as you hear them mayn't attract musical copyright, but write down a transcription and they're covered as a literary work.

Of course the question then comes as to who is the true author, is it you, or is it Metallica? I think I know the answer to that one.
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parkt921k
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#19
just to give a point of reference of what I'm talking about, this message is from a month and a half ago, regarding me playing two of our songs at a tiny bar in front of 8 people:

I had to think about something in the last days concerning your gig at Hummels Eck on friday and I came to the conclusion that I don't really like the idea that you play TCA songs there. Mainly my disappointment comes from the fact that you didn't ask me if it's okay. And that's what you would have had to do. I would never play or use our songs anywhere without asking cause we both have a 50% author right (or however this is called in english). So our songs are a kind of tabu. It might have been okay if you would have asked ...
However, I will not forbid playing the TCA songs on friday, I just want you to know that the more happens stuff like this the more sceptical and disappointed I am ... Sorry, man! I don't really understand you ...


that's what I'm dealing with. I gather this is all bullsh*t

and btw when I did play there, I announced his name to the 8 people who couldn't care less
amonamarthmetal
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#20
Quote by AlanHB
UG pays for the licence to host them. It is the reason that UG is the primary source (if not one of the only sources) of tabs on the internet.

If you're talking about someone taking a tab off UG then claiming it as their own, tabs/chords are far more likely to be covered as a literary work rather than a musical work. So say the chords in themselves, played as you hear them mayn't attract musical copyright, but write down a transcription and they're covered as a literary work.

Of course the question then comes as to who is the true author, is it you, or is it Metallica? I think I know the answer to that one.

I'm talking about The Tabs&Chords section.... things that people on this forum make to show other members.
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salempc
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#21
Quote by parkt921k
just to give a point of reference of what I'm talking about, this message is from a month and a half ago, regarding me playing two of our songs at a tiny bar in front of 8 people:


that's what I'm dealing with. I gather this is all bullsh*t

and btw when I did play there, I announced his name to the 8 people who couldn't care less


Ahh... Now I get your buddy...

Dont make a big deal out of it, he just got butthurt because you didn't inform him you were playing TCA songs because he feels he did his job too and would want some credit for it. If you don't even tell him you're playing, how could he be sure he gets the credit he does deserve, even if you did mention him. You should have told him.

He doesn't look like he doesn't want you to play them, just that it wouldn't hurt to let him know you are, so he feels like people know he is being credited for his work, which although legally would give you a great leverage, formally it really was a 50/50 effort.

It's just butthurt, don't make a big deal of it.
parkt921k
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#22
actually, this message came to me about four days after I had indeed told him I'd be playing tca songs. It was more that I took it as a given. I would've said sth like "yeah, and when I play that acoustic show in two weeks, it'll be hard to play can you swim just acoustically because there's so much going on in that song", instead of:

"I'm playing an acoustic show in front of 8 people in two weeks, can I please play one of our songs we wrote together?"

so when you say 'you should have told him', of course I did, it's just that I didn't even think it'd be a problem.. turns out it was, which was a huge red flag
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#23
Quote by amonamarthmetal
I'm talking about The Tabs&Chords section.... things that people on this forum make to show other members.


I'm talking about whether the tab would exist if the original song, which you didn't write, didn't exist. How much credit do you want for someone else's song?
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salempc
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#24
Quote by parkt921k
actually, this message came to me about four days after I had indeed told him I'd be playing tca songs. It was more that I took it as a given. I would've said sth like "yeah, and when I play that acoustic show in two weeks, it'll be hard to play can you swim just acoustically because there's so much going on in that song", instead of:

"I'm playing an acoustic show in front of 8 people in two weeks, can I please play one of our songs we wrote together?"

so when you say 'you should have told him', of course I did, it's just that I didn't even think it'd be a problem.. turns out it was, which was a huge red flag


Well he is a dick then.
parkt921k
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#25
helps my clarity anyway, a difficult situation overall for the music and me too. sucks losing someone you thought was your friend
Last edited by parkt921k at Nov 27, 2012,
axemanchris
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#26
As has been established, it sounds like you own the majority of the songwriting - but not all of it. That's fine. If he contributed 5% (or even 1%), he still deserves credit. A song may be listed as being by Tyler and Perry, but that doesn't mean it was 50/50.

Where you indicate the percentage is in the copyright paperwork, the performance royalties paperwork (ie ASCAP), and the mechanical rights paperwork (ex. Harry Fox Agency). In that case, it would be listed as Tyler (95%) and Perry (5%) or whatever. Those figures are then used to calculate how much money each person gets when royalties are distributed.

As far as live use goes, it has already been established correctly that the venue operators pay an annual license for the public performances of copyrighted material. He can no more say that you can't use the songs he co-wrote than Billy Joe Armstrong can tell you not to play a Green Day cover.

One nit-pick from above - performance royalties are not the fees paid to people who perform on an album. Performance royalties are paid out when a song is performed in public, which strangely enough, includes "performances" of the recording (ex. television, radio, etc.)

CT
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Joshua1207
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#27
Quote by AlanHB
I'm talking about whether the tab would exist if the original song, which you didn't write, didn't exist. How much credit do you want for someone else's song?


Pretty sure he is talking about songs in this section https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?forumid=46 songs that people do write themselves.
onebetter
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#28
There's two components to copyright, only one of which is relevant here. The first is the ownership of the composition itself (i.e. the lyrics, melody, chords, and riffs.) The other is the sound recording.

Copyright is automatically enacted whenever something is "fixed in tangible form," meaning when music/lyrics are written down and/or a song is recorded. In the case of compositions, the rights are shared equally by everyone who contributed to the work, unless otherwise agreed upon in a written contract.

So, in saying that you can't perform these songs without his permission, he is right, since as joint owners of the compositions, you have equal say in their use.

However, it gets sticky when talking about how the copyright is claimed. I'm assuming none of these songs have been registered with the U.S. Copyright Office? If not, your friend will be hard-pressed to stop you from performing the songs, even if it is technically illegal.

You guys should draft a written agreement. That way you can negotiate what uses of the songs are fair and which require permission. Best to get everything in writing when it comes to legal issues.
axemanchris
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#29
Quote by onebetter

So, in saying that you can't perform these songs without his permission, he is right, since as joint owners of the compositions, you have equal say in their use.


Not any more than Keith Richards can tell you not to play a Rolling Stones' song. I've never heard of anyone successfully preventing a live performance of a song. Ever. As long as the venue has paid the blanket license that allows the performance of copyrighted material, you can play whose-ever song you want.

Quote by onebetter

You guys should draft a written agreement. That way you can negotiate what uses of the songs are fair and which require permission. Best to get everything in writing when it comes to legal issues.


Maybe, except a lot of these issues already have laws around them that determine what can be done legally anyways.

When you register the song, whether it be with a copyright office, a performance rights association, or a mechanical licensing organization, it will always be part of the process to itemize who owns how much of the song. ex. Jagger = 60%, Richards = 40%; or Lennon = 50% and McCartney = 50% or whatever.

As long as you have 50% ownership of a composition, you can grant various permissions for whatever uses come into circumstance.

CT
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