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   Author  Topic: Partial copyright of music  (Read 2303 times)
Andrea_W
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Partial copyright of music
« on: Jan 11th, 2006, 7:28pm »
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Hello,
 
I am a songwriter and recently stopped working with my songwriting partner of 6 years, (let's call her "Judy"). We have released material together in the past and were working on a new album. She would write the music and I would write the vocal melodies and lyrics.
 
Judy now informs me that she wants to start a new project and intends to use the instrumental parts of the album we were working on (they are already recorded) with her new project. Her intention is to get a new singer and rewrite the vocal melodies and lyrics with this new singer.  
 
She was surprized when I told her about the notion of music being a "joint work" that consists of (as someone else stated here): "inseparable or interdependent parts of a unitary whole".  She brushed it off saying the recording we made was simply a "demo".
 
The songs in question were recorded in their entirety (music, vocal melodies and lyrics). I have copies of them, but do not have any formal copyright on them beyond the usual "automatic" copyright that I know exists.
 
My question is this: Is it legal for me to register my non-accompanied vocal melodies and song lyrics as seperate entities in the interest of protecting my musical ideas from possible plagerism? I am---I believe understandably---worried that Judy and the new singer will be inevitably influenced by my original versions when they rewrite the songs. I would like to have some firm ground to stand on if I need to take any action in the future.
 
Much thanks,
 
Andrea
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JSonnabend
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Re: Partial copyright of music
« Reply #1 on: Jan 12th, 2006, 12:19pm »
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In a nutshell, "Judy" is likely going to be able to use the music in a new project.  The real question is whether she will be required to make an accounting to you for such use.  The answer to that question hinges on whether or not the song you wrote together, i.e., her music plus your lyrics, qualified as a "joint work of authorship".
 
The more the facts bear-out your contention that the two of you intended the song to be a single work combining her music and your lyrics, the stronger your position.
 
- Jeff
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SonnabendLaw
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Andrea_W
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Re: Partial copyright of music
« Reply #2 on: Jan 12th, 2006, 5:33pm »
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Thanks for replying.
 
Yes, we recorded the songs with the intention of putting out an album together. It would have been our second album.
 
I do not want to keep her from using the music she wrote--just the vocal melodies I wrote (and obviously the lyrics). She realizes she can't use them without my permission which is good. My worry is that the new vocal melodies she writes for the songs will inevitably reference the original ones I wrote but that I won't have any recourse to pursue it because the songs were never "officially" copywritten, (by "officially I mean beyond the "automatic copyright" of them having been recorded).
 
...Hence me wondering if I could register the vocal melodies on their own.
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Isaac
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Re: Partial copyright of music
« Reply #3 on: Jan 13th, 2006, 7:05am »
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The joint work argument cuts both ways.   If the facts support a joint work, either coauthor can exploit the work without the others permission as long as they share the profits.    
 
If the work is a collective work rather than a joint work, then each party could exploit the collection (sharing profits) but could additionally exploit their own contribution without sharing profits.
 
One possibly complicating issue might surround the status of the vocal melodies.  As a decidedly non musical, and quite possibly tone deaf person, it's not clear to me that vocal melodies are not derivative works based on the music.   If the melodies are derivative works, then the rights of the author of the music would have to be considered when using the vocal melodies and would also affect the process of registering the melodies.
 
I think you need to careful sort things out before registering the vocal melodies in particular, but also the song lyrics.   If you and Judy are still on amiable terms, that sure would help in resolving these things.    
 
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Isaac
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Re: Partial copyright of music
« Reply #4 on: Jan 13th, 2006, 8:16am »
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on Jan 12th, 2006, 5:33pm, Andrea_W wrote:
She realizes she can't use them without my permission which is good.

I think she is wrong, actually.  I believe she can use the vocal melodies without your permission, but not without an accounting for profits.  I don't believe the work would ever be considered a "collective work" (which generally covers anthologies, periodicals and the like).
 
- Jeff
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