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Dimitry K., Esq.
Dimitry K., Esq., Attorney
Category: Intellectual Property Law
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Experience:  I assist my clients with IP questions that arise in their daily course of doing business.
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Hello, Three years ago, I and a few friends created a concert

Resolved Question:

Hello,

Three years ago, I and a few friends created a concert combining art, narration and music. I have composed the music, written the lyrics and arranged each song. There are 10 songs altogether. As I wish to use these songs both in the show, as well as outside of the show, as I see fit, I feel it is important to copyright my material, and protect it--I have the melody lines and lyrics on sheet music, and am currently in the studio mixing the recordings (I do have some early recordings during the writing phase, featuring just my vocals, or perhaps my vocals and piano). Is having the sheet music enough to move forward with copyright, or do I need to wait till I have the actual recording? BTW, the songs were written over two years ago, and have been performed several times, both alone, as well as in the concert.

Thank you!

Kirsten
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Intellectual Property Law
Expert:  Dimitry K., Esq. replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for your question, Kirsten. Please permit me to assist you with your concerns.

Are you seeking a sole copyright to the music, or are you giving some credit to your friends? If you are not giving any credit to them, do they feel entitled to some credit, or did they assist you in any way in creating this melody and music?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Hi Dimitry,


No, there was no help whatsoever in the writing of the music or lyrics--the arrangement was helped with another friend, whom I'll gladly share arrangement copyright, as I understand these are seperate.


 


As to your question about claim, I have begun to worry lately, as there seems to be a lot of dischord here. There are three of us who've created the concert: The artist, who has copyrighted her art, the historian--who along with me and another partner who has since left the project--wrote the narrative, and myself, who wrote the music. There has never been any discussion over rights to individual pieces (except that I know the artist has secured or is in process of securing her artwork), and it was never my intention to give up ownership of my work. These things just never came up. No contracts on anything anywhere, which has always bothered my husband, cause he thinks we are all dumb artists, with no business sense. Especially now, that I have offers for my music to be used by individuals with money and the same desire to make a difference in the world, and the historian doesn't want me or our show involved with these guys--because he considers them to be "competition" to his own side business of teaching seminars about the constitution. This is what our concert is about, and we are one of many out there educating others about our nation's heritage and the framing of our government. My husband is concerned that, should we decide to go our seperate ways, over differences like these, that I need to be clear that I take my compositions with me, just as the artist will keep her work, and the historian will keep his seminar going. Quite frankly, it's the music that drives the emotion and spirit of the show, and it appears that my two partners are trying to keep me from leaving, by saying that it's the music, narration and images together that acheive the best results, and music alone doesn't have the impact--thus I need to stay and work with them only--though I am actively trying to bring the whole show in on the deal I'me being offered. But as of now, these new guys are only interested in my music, and it's making the other guys mad. FYI, they use their stuff alone all the time, and I never complain, but am happy for them. I want the same benefit!

Expert:  Dimitry K., Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Thank you for your patience, my apologies on the delay.

Now I am beginning to see the situation a bit more clearly. The sheet music is indeed yours if you created the tune and the arrangement without any other input. The individual you listed for arrangement is indeed entitled to partial credit, but the sheet music is wholly yours. What you all share copyright on is the full and finished work. There all parties contributed and all parties have a legal interest in the intellectual property. Moving forward with the sheet music solely should be sufficient.

Now, having said that, I suggest that you move quickly. The atmosphere appears to be somewhat poisonous so the faster you obtain formal copyright (you are correct, you do obtain a natural copyright when you create something unique yourself), the faster you can retain and affirm your rights once the inevitable split takes place. Also, please consider agreeing with your husband (at least this once)--get things in writing so as to avoid this potential stress and emotional blackmail in the future.

Please be well!

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Sooooo Sorry Dimitry--


One more thing to clarify: So the concert itself, as performed, we three own together? But I still maintain ownersip of my music outside of this? They cannot keep me from performing my music where ever else I desire? I'm absolutely fine with them using the music and keeping the concert going--so long as I am a part of it, so I can control the quality--that is fine; it's what we all wanted. I just want the right to use my work other places.


Now how about the recording? I am producing it, have done everything, by myself, to get it recorded, and am putting up some of my own money, along with an outside investor. Do I have equal share or a percentage? The artist has a company that she claims will call the shots, and I'm concerned she may think she only ows me mechanical liscensing...I'm not really in this for money, it's about the message. But I do not want to give up complete control, and if I'm due more than the mechanical fee, I do want that, if it's fair.


 


Last info bit--I have never been paid for my service...none of us have, except that money from the shows go through these two people's hands, and I never know where it ends up...no accounting whatsoever. I don't want this to be the case with the album!


 


Sorry--this is a convoluted situation and I am entirely too trusting, but my gut is telling me to be concerned!

Expert:  Dimitry K., Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Than you for your follow-up. Please do not be sorry, I will be happy to clarify.


One more thing to clarify: So the concert itself, as performed, we three own together?

Correct.

 

But I still maintain ownersip of my music outside of this?

Also correct. You own the rights to the individual contribution to the whole, and you own the whole in part with the other participants.

 

They cannot keep me from performing my music where ever else I desire?

So long as you record your rights and do not use any of their elements, they will be hard-pressed to stop you UNLESS they claim that the melody is owned jointly by the whole group, something that you are contesting.

 

I'm absolutely fine with them using the music and keeping the concert going--so long as I am a part of it, so I can control the quality--that is fine; it's what we all wanted. I just want the right to use my work other places.

That would be a problem. By giving them the right to use the music, you are implicitly potentially agreeing that this was not sole ownership but group ownership. It would be wiser to allow them to use the music so long as after your record your copyright, they sign a written license agreement with you under which you agree to allow them to use your music in certain limited capacity--as that will ensure that the rights are yours, and not jointly held.

 

Now how about the recording?

If they are not on the recording you, own it.

 

I am producing it, have done everything, by myself, to get it recorded, and am putting up some of my own money, along with an outside investor. Do I have equal share or a percentage?

WIthout anything in writing, all the parties to the recording own equal shares.

 

The artist has a company that she claims will call the shots, and I'm concerned she may think she only ows me mechanical liscensing...I'm not really in this for money, it's about the message. But I do not want to give up complete control, and if I'm due more than the mechanical fee, I do want that, if it's fair.

That is wise, and getting that put in writing is also very wise.

 

Last info bit--I have never been paid for my service...none of us have, except that money from the shows go through these two people's hands, and I never know where it ends up...no accounting whatsoever. I don't want this to be the case with the album!

That is a bit separate of an issue and is really beyond the scope of your question as it does not deal with intellectual property. However if you have nothing in writing, it will be hard for you to demand disclosure or accounting to take place.

 

Sorry--this is a convoluted situation and I am entirely too trusting, but my gut is telling me to be concerned!

This situation, as far as you described it, does not appear to be positive, I agree, so please be careful.

 

Good luck.

Dimitry K., Esq., Attorney
Satisfied Customers: 36983
Experience: I assist my clients with IP questions that arise in their daily course of doing business.
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