BAIPA Board member Ruth Schwartz found this interesting and informative article on LinkedIn.
Collaboration—Joint Copyright Owners
Authors of copyrightable work BEWARE. Before you think about combining forces with another author, musician, or any collaborator—READ THIS!
For years I have been telling clients that collaborative relationships can create more problems than a few. And if you choose to enter into such relationships, you should have a lawyer on your team. Here is why: The average person who collaborates on an artistic project doesn’t stop to think about the legal issues involved. Without knowing it, you can inadvertently give up (or limit) your rights. And it’s only after the relationship falls apart that you realize what you could have done differently.
Recently, a federal court in Tennessee (Severe Records LLC v. Rich, 6th Cir., No. 09-6175, 9/23/11) reaffirmed what most courts have held and what all competent copyright lawyers know all too well—joint copyright owners, each, have the same rights. They have the right to sell, display, assign, transfer, or create derivative works based on the work of art or authorship, and there will be no claim of copyright infringement if they do. In essence, the court said, joint copyright holders have the right to fully exploit their copyrighted work without the permission of the other copyright owner. While they may need to account to one another for profits, they do not need permission to do anything.
Briefly, in this case, a music producer/songwriter wrote a song, and then he and the singer recorded the song together. They were so happy with the results of their first venture that they decided to co-author and record a second song. They were joint copyright owners. Then, their relationship fell apart. The singer then signed on with another management and recoding company, and transferred all of her rights in both the music and the sound recordings to the new company. One of the joint copyright owners claimed that the other was committing copyright infringement because they were selling the recordings without the consent of the other.
While the court did not specifically address the issue of ownership, in a round-about manner, the court said that both joint copyright owners have the right to do anything they want with her work, and that the other party cannot be charged with copyright infringement if they do something the other author does not like.
Takeaway for collaborators:
- When you decide to enter into a joint collaborative relation talk to a lawyer first.
- Have a written agreement that clearly defines who owns what.
- Understand that each joint copyright owner has the right to do anything they want with the work.
Francine D. Ward, Esq.
Intellectual Property Law, Trademarks, Book Lawyer, Business Lawyer, Author, Motivational Speaker, Keynote Speaker