#1
Hi everyone, 

I'm in a predicament right now and I'm seeking the guidance of the UG community for help... thank you.

Anyways, a few months back I met a vocalist with the goal of starting a band. I had most of the music already written (instrumental, AND vocal melodies), and the vocalists only real responsibility creatively would be to provide lyrics.

Once the lyrics were completed, we recorded all of the songs with our iphones. 


Now, fast forward to the present day...the vocalist decided to up and leave with another musician. And considering the circumstances,  I wouldn't put it past them to take what we done together for use for their own.


Keep in mind, at this point nothing has yet been formally registered with the copyright office, or anything of that sort. All we have is dated voice memos on our phones to go on.  

So my question is for time sake can I simply register ALL of the recordings we had done together and say that I'm the sole writer regarding the melodies and music, meanwhile ignoring the contribution of the other vocalist and their lyrics despite the fact they exist in the recording? I don't intend on taking their lyrics.. and so I don't want them a part of the copyright. Will this hold up in court god forbid anything happens?

I hope I explained clearly enough, please ask any questions for clarification if need be! Thank you UG!
Last edited by groznjj1 at Jun 14, 2017,
#2
Just to make one thing clear - you have full rights to every piece of music you've written, officially registered or not. It doesn't mean that you can prove you've written them, but legally it's your music. Can you prove that you're indeed the author of those tracks?

And I don't think there'd be any reason to sue, unless: 1. they're actually recording and releasing music written by you and profiting off of it 2. you'll release the music yourself and the vocalist tries to claim that the music was written by him/her. If it's just an amateur band that makes no money and maybe uses some music made by you I doubt the court would give two shits about it, a better option would be to talk things through with them. It would still suck a lot, of course, but if they're not making money with it, and you're not making money with it, and only like ten people ever will even hear the songs I think an actual lawsuit would be a terrible idea.

But if you're a professional musician and they're making profit off of your music, sure you can sue them given that you can prove you're the author of the songs. Copyrighting music isn't the same thing as copyrighting a brand or a logo, the original composer has the rights unless he/she deliberately sells them/gives them away. I can admit that I'm not an expert on anything legal or business related, but unless I've seriously misunderstood something, you already have full rights to your own music. But if I recall correctly there is a registration process that would help solidify that, but I have no experience with that outside my own country. Where do you live by the way?
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*note that by fan i mean that guy who wants his friends to know he knows this totally obscure hip band that only he knows about with 236 views on youtube. lookin' at Kev here
#3
Laws may differ depending on what country you live in. In the US a Copyright applies to a "fixed work" meaning that it exists in some form (other than just inside your head). In your case that would be a recording or written music. I suggest you take the time to re-record all of your work in some form other than random pieces of ideas scattered on cell phone recordings. Also remember to record the melody, that's the thing that is being copyrighted. A chord sequence with no melody is not something you can copyright.
Think of a copyright as a legal "time stamp". When you apply for a copyright and send in a copy of your work in whatever form you choose, no one is going to listen to it at the government copyright office. It's just dated and filed and you receive notice that this has been done. If something comes up in the future where you feel your material has been used without your permission, you can prove that you filed for a copyright/ownership of this material on a certain date and time. It's then up to a court to rule on original ownership (is it the same material and who filed first).
 
From copyright.gov :

Copyright protects “original works of authorship” that are 
fixed in a tangible form of expression. The fixation need not 
be directly perceptible so long as it may be communicated 
with the aid of a machine or device. Copyrightable works 
include the following categories:

literary works

musical works, including any accompanying words

dramatic works, including any accompanying music

pantomimes and choreographic works

pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works

motion pictures and other audiovisual works

sound recordings

architectural works
These categories should be viewed broadly. For example, 
computer programs and most “compilations” may be regis­
tered as “literary works”; maps and architectural plans may 
be registered as “pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works.”
 
Publication is no longer the key to obtaining federal copy­
right as it was under the Copyright Act of 1909. However, 
publication remains important to copyright owners.
The 1976 Copyright Act defines publication as follows:
“Publication” is the distribution of copies or phonorecords 
of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of owner
-ship, or by rental, lease, or lending. The offering to distribute 
copies or phonorecords to a group of persons for purposes 
of further distribution, public performance, or public 
display constitutes publication. A public performance or 
display of a work does not of itself constitute publication.
Yes I am guitarded also, nice to meet you.
Last edited by Rickholly74 at Jun 14, 2017,
#4
Quote by Kevätuhri
Just to make one thing clear - you have full rights to every piece of music you've written, officially registered or not. It doesn't mean that you can prove you've written them, but legally it's your music. Can you prove that you're indeed the author of those tracks?

And I don't think there'd be any reason to sue, unless: 1. they're actually recording and releasing music written by you and profiting off of it 2. you'll release the music yourself and the vocalist tries to claim that the music was written by him/her. If it's just an amateur band that makes no money and maybe uses some music made by you I doubt the court would give two shits about it, a better option would be to talk things through with them. It would still suck a lot, of course, but if they're not making money with it, and you're not making money with it, and only like ten people ever will even hear the songs I think an actual lawsuit would be a terrible idea.

But if you're a professional musician and they're making profit off of your music, sure you can sue them given that you can prove you're the author of the songs. Copyrighting music isn't the same thing as copyrighting a brand or a logo, the original composer has the rights unless he/she deliberately sells them/gives them away. I can admit that I'm not an expert on anything legal or business related, but unless I've seriously misunderstood something, you already have full rights to your own music. But if I recall correctly there is a registration process that would help solidify that, but I have no experience with that outside my own country. Where do you live by the way?

Thank you for your response. I live in the USA

Yes I'm aware that once a piece of music is "fixed" it is technically your work regardless of official copyright or not. But the fear comes in because prior to my meeting this vocalist all of my musical "ideas" were strictly in my head. The only fixed form they ever existed in are within the iPhone recordings of which we BOTH have. Same dates and all.... I don't think there would be any real way to prove anything if further down the line money is involved. 
#5
Quote by Rickholly74
I suggest you take the time to re-record all of your work in some form other than random pieces of ideas scattered on cell phone recordings. 

Thank you for your response. The phone recordings I mentioned are not scattered pieces of ideas. They are the full songs between myself and the vocalist.

What I want to accomplish (if possible) is to turn these exact recordings into the copyright office, stating that I'm the owner of the melody and the music, ignoring the lyrics which are not mine. 

in other words, do I HAVE to make mention of the lyrics and their rightful ownership since they exist on the recording? Can I specifically state that the lyrics are not part of the copyright I'm wanting to achieve?
Last edited by groznjj1 at Jun 14, 2017,
#6
Sounds to me like you probably prefer new Metallica over old Metallica. 
"I definitely don’t write all my music in a blackout, like I used to, although I did come up with some good stuff in a blackout."
-Matt Fucking Pike
#7
When you apply for a copyright whatever you submit becomes part of the copyright so if there are lyrics on the recordings you submit, they become part of the copyright application. As I mentioned, no one is going to listen to your material at the copyright office and stamp it "music only". You will get a notice that your copyright has been registered as submitted. If you don't want to take ownership of the lyrics you need to submit recordings that don't have them in the song. Remember that a copyright is a legal federal document so I would proceed with caution if you plan on sending in material that you did not create 100% or without acknowledging any associated partners. If you want to learn a lot more about copyrights get the book "This Business of Music". It walks you through this stuff and answers questions you haven't even thought about.

https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ56a.pdf

https://www.copyright.gov/forms/formsr.pdf
Yes I am guitarded also, nice to meet you.
Last edited by Rickholly74 at Jun 14, 2017,
#8
Unless you truly feel that you are being ripped off and these songs are gonna make said person famous or wealthy I really don't think you have anything to worry about..

Just continue on use your material and keep writing more.
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