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edpdx
Forum Full Member


Registered: 05/19/08
Posts: 202
Location: Portland, Or United States
 
Copyright question.
Monday, September 17 2018 @ 11:16 AM CDT

Let's say that I write the lyrics of a song, and I can sing the first verse of the lyrics. Since I cannot sing in tune, someone else sings it for me (based on my input). Do I own the music as well?
mr_mordenus
Forum Full Member


Registered: 06/04/07
Posts: 409
Location: Plasticville,
 
Re:Copyright question.
Monday, September 17 2018 @ 02:47 PM CDT

As I understand this..... if you write it, you own it. Music and lyrics are considered separate entities, and ownership belongs to whoever creates the original work. If you wrote the music, you own it regardless of who performs it at any point forward. If you wrote the lyrics, you own them regardless of who sings them.
mr_mordenus
Forum Full Member


Registered: 06/04/07
Posts: 409
Location: Plasticville,
 
Re:Copyright question.
Monday, September 17 2018 @ 02:48 PM CDT

Multiple post. Who knows why.
MikeRobinson
Forum Full Member


Registered: 08/29/11
Posts: 896
Location: Chattanooga, TN United States
 
Re:Copyright question.
Monday, September 17 2018 @ 03:02 PM CDT

In the United States, the go-to source for information ishttp://copyright.gov.

While disclaiming that they are “offering legal advice,” which only your attorney can legally do, they have published a tremendous amount of authoritative information about the US Copyright Code as it stands today.
XMaramena
Forum Full Member


Registered: 11/22/10
Posts: 655
Location: Arlesey, Bedfordshire, United Kingdom
 
Re:Copyright question.
Monday, September 17 2018 @ 04:57 PM CDT

There are 2 things at play here. One is Copyright, the other is IP (Intellectual Property).

Essentially you have 2 creative inputs for the situation you're describing: the writer and the performer.

The writer would hold the copyright, regardless of who performed it. The performer would hold the Intellectual Property of that performance (but not the copyright to the original material from which they made the performance, ie. existing lyrics and melody. That belongs still to the writer).

Where it gets complicated is if the performer decides to add their own twist on things, either by ad libs or by altering the given melody and lyrics slightly. This would mean that in the performance, the performer has created what is essentially their own edition (either with or without permission from the writer which takes us into a whole new level of legal complexities - there's often a fine line between lawsuit and collaboration!), and may be able to claim copyright and/or co-writer credits for those alterations.

But behind all this, the copyright always goes by default to the writer, but can be transferred by contract to a third party. If you do that, you still hold the Intellectual Property to the original composition and lyrics.

For example, when a film composer writes a score, the contract will usually stipulate that the copyright for the score will be held by the production company. The composer however, will retain Intellectual Property rights over the original compositions.
MikeRobinson
Forum Full Member


Registered: 08/29/11
Posts: 896
Location: Chattanooga, TN United States
 
Re:Copyright question.
Tuesday, September 18 2018 @ 12:46 PM CDT

US law has a number of different provisions relating to this:

Registration Not Required:   From the indescribable moment of inception, by default you own what you create.   The USA offers copyright registration – some other countries do not – and your rights are greatly enhanced if you do.   Furthermore, if you try to “peddle” your song on the market, you will be asked for the copyright registration number, and they will verify it.   (Just like a scrupulous used-car salesman will require your certificate of title if you want to sell your car to him.)   This is your independently-verifiable representation that you do own the property that you are trying to sell or license.

Online Registration is Effective Immediately:   You do not have to wait to receive that pretty certificate in the mail.   The website takes your money, then issues the official registration number, and, from that instant, registration is legally complete.   You can register a collection of number of like-kind works simultaneously for just one fee.   (This is purely an administrative consideration:   copyright applies severally to each and every item in the collection, but our hard-working civil servants have only one piece of paperwork to issue.)

Circle-C and Circle-P:   Circle-P refers to a performance, or a specific rendering of a performance.

Derivative Works:   If a performer ad-libs a new and novel verse to an existing song, or a descant, or “samples” from it, this is a “derivative work” of the original copyrighted material and the holder of that original copyright has a partial claim to the derivative.   For instance, the owner of Super Freak gets a cut from MC Hammer’s (brilliant ...) Can’t Touch This.

Works Made For Hire:   That songwriter’s contract will include that specific phrase as a legally-required notice to the songwriter that the copyrights which a creator normally holds from the moment of inception will instead belong to the party who hired him.   The assignment is specific and very narrowly-defined and does not apply to anything that might be contemporaneously produced which was not part of that contract.   And, if the hiring party does not perform every aspect of the contract, the author can make the case that he was not, in fact, properly “hired” and should receive his rights back as partial compensation.   (But that will take the services of a judge.)

The USA is party to international copyright treaties and US law is generally in conformance to them, but exceptions do exist.   That’s what attorneys are for.
edpdx
Forum Full Member


Registered: 05/19/08
Posts: 202
Location: Portland, Or United States
 
Re:Copyright question.
Wednesday, September 19 2018 @ 04:01 PM CDT

Hi Xmaramena,

So, when registering the lyrics, does it cover the melody as well? Do they need to be registered separately (i.e. chord progression and melody?)

Thanks.
MikeRobinson
Forum Full Member


Registered: 08/29/11
Posts: 896
Location: Chattanooga, TN United States
 
Re:Copyright question.
Wednesday, September 19 2018 @ 04:10 PM CDT

I do not claim to be a lawyer, but every time I’ve submitted a copyright registration for a song, I have submitted a lead-sheet including both melody and lyrics – and, in some cases, a page containing lyrics only and/or a lead-sheet which contained no lyrics.   There is no question that both “a melody” and “a lyric (poetry ...)” are both copyrightable material under the same general classification.   (Whereas a sound recording is clearly a different one ... ergo, two collections, $35*2=$70 instead of $35.)   As far as I know, “everything that ‘sensibly belongs together,’ and which falls under the same classification,” can simply be included in that submission.

If, at some future time, you come up with a brand-new melody and/or brand-new lyrics, I would submit a brand-new application, citing it as a “derivative work” of your previous application to clearly establish the intended link between them – so that some researching lawyer will see it show up on the copyright.gov website as a hyperlink!

- - -
Also, in a private message, someone asked this non-lawyer about “chord progressions.”   I replied that this question was most-apropos since this very thing was the essential substance of a high-profile legal case regarding Stairway to Heaven, which was quickly decided by a jury in favor of Led Zeppelin.

- - -
P.S.:   Until the first time that I had need to retain an attorney, I did not fully understand what they were for, and I hadn’t considered the implication of that old-fashioned term for them ... “counselor.”   However, ever since, I have become quite reliant on “wait, before I answer that, let me Ask Tom™ what he thinks.”   Tom charges me, as any professional would do.   I pay him.   I’m happy to, for all the many times he’s saved my butt(!!) from land-mines that I didn’t even know existed.   Yes, he’s my attorney, and yes, I count him as a trusted friend.
bronco
Forum Full Member


Registered: 05/31/04
Posts: 583
Location: N/A
 
Re:Copyright question.
Monday, September 24 2018 @ 07:58 PM CDT

Quote by: edpdx
Let's say that I write the lyrics of a song, and I can sing the first verse of the lyrics. Since I cannot sing in tune, someone else sings it for me (based on my input). Do I own the music as well?

So you are saying that you have a copy of you singing the melody or playing it on a keyboard or something of that sort? I would think that if you don't have the music written down in nomenclature or tab and don't have some type of recording as an example of how the music/melody should go then you would ge hard pressed to prove someone else didn't write the music. That said I wouldn't worry about it. No professional singer will record your song without it being published by someone who will make sure it is copyrighted. If your song is really that good and somehow an unethical person or company steal it and have it published and copyrighted then you are up the creek. A lawsuit could drag on forever and guess who has the lawyers and money to win?
 
bronco
Forum Full Member


Registered: 05/31/04
Posts: 583
Location: N/A
 
Re:Copyright question.
Monday, September 24 2018 @ 07:58 PM CDT

Quote by: edpdx
Let's say that I write the lyrics of a song, and I can sing the first verse of the lyrics. Since I cannot sing in tune, someone else sings it for me (based on my input). Do I own the music as well?

So you are saying that you have a copy of you singing the melody or playing it on a keyboard or something of that sort? I would think that if you don't have the music written down in nomenclature or tab and don't have some type of recording as an example of how the music/melody should go then you would ge hard pressed to prove someone else didn't write the music. That said I wouldn't worry about it. No professional singer will record your song without it being published by someone who will make sure it is copyrighted. If your song is really that good and somehow an unethical person or company steal it and have it published and copyrighted then you are up the creek. A lawsuit could drag on forever and guess who has the lawyers and money to win?