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Other >> Copyright Forum >> question about band I am no longer in?
(Message started by: sam1967 on Jul 31st, 2005, 9:09pm)

Title: question about band I am no longer in?
Post by sam1967 on Jul 31st, 2005, 9:09pm
Two years ago I was the drummer in a 2 piece.  I wrote all of the drum parts to the guitar and lyrics my partner wrote.  I also wrote 3 songs on the album myself and he played the music I wrote on the guitar to those 3 songs.  We have since split up and he has reformed the band with a new drummer who is playing my drum parts and performing and selling the songs he and I wrote together as well as the songs I wrote.  What should I do?

Title: Re: question about band I am no longer in?
Post by mactheknife on Aug 1st, 2005, 12:11am
Let me start with the easy part: the songs you wrote by yourself.  I assume this means you composed the melody and lyrics, or just the melody if there are no lyrics. Theoretically, you can (1) send in an application for copyright registration to the C.O.; (2) when you get it back, consult with an attorney about filing an infringement suit or at least a cease and desist letter.  In practice, the copyright form is $30, an attorney is hundreds/thousands more, and what you may win in court would amount to less than what you're spending.  So you'll have to think about whether it's worth it, especially if the band is not going to be touring a lot or selling that many records anyway.

Now, the songs you co-wrote with your former partner--this is a bit more tricky.  According to the copyright law, a "musical work" consists basically of lyrics and melody.  A drum part may be considered part of the "arrangement" or it might be considered so insubstantial that you don't get to claim any copyright in the song.  This depends on the level of involvement and complexity in the drum part--if it's more than "garden variety" rock beat or swing beat or whatever, you might be able to claim the song as yours.  Secondly, a song is usually considered a "joint work"--where your part and your partner's lyrics or melody are intended to be merged into a single work (the legalese is "inseparable or interdependent parts of a unitary whole").  If this is the case, both authors own ALL of the song, lyrics, music, drum parts, guitar parts, you name it.  This means that your bandmate owns your drum parts, and you own your partner's lyrics.  Any owner is supposed to be able to use the song, as long as all other owners are compensated equally for the use.

Again, it's possible to register the co-written songs with the Copyright Office and then start legal action, but you have to think about whether it's worth it.  If it's still possible to work things out on your own, it might save a lot of headaches in the long run.

Title: Re: question about band I am no longer in?
Post by Isaac Clark on Aug 1st, 2005, 4:24am
It's not necessary to register the copyright before sending a
cease and desist letter.  But you cannot actually sue before at least applying for registration.

I agree complete with Macktheknife's assessment of the practicalities of suing.



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