??? about intellectual property and copyright law

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Tim Hoover, May 30, 2002.

  1. Tim Hoover

    Tim Hoover Screenwriter

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    First, a disclaimer for the mods: This refers to MY intellectual property!
    Here's the story: Recently my band broke up very acrimoniously. While our singer/lead guitarist had brought a lot of song ideas to the band, the group as a whole finished the songs and I recorded them. Our singer (/lead guitarist) is now trying to claim those songs solely as his own, to use in future performances. Unfortunately, he has already filed copyright protection on the songs themselves.
    Basically, I am wondering if I can file copyrights on the recordings of those songs. I don't want him to use the recordings we did for his own gain. This would allow him to perform those songs, or re-record them, but not use our original recordings. Is this possible? I would like to note that I am in possession of the original digital 16-track masters...
    Hopefully, some of the HTF resident attorneys can chime in [​IMG]
     
  2. LDfan

    LDfan Supporting Actor

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    My friend works for the Patent and Trademark Office. Guess he might be a pretty good source of info since he approves patents.

    I'll check with him.

    Jeff
     
  3. Jeremy Stockwell

    Jeremy Stockwell Supporting Actor

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    Tim,
    Yes, it is possible to register a copyright on the recordings. You use a Form SR (Sound Recording) to do this. Usually, SR's are filed using an entire album. Check out the U.S. Copyright Office website for more info. about the details:
    http://lcweb.loc.gov/copyright/
    I'd be more concerned about who the owners of the works actually are. I'm assuming that Assignments of Copyright and Song Contracts, etc. were not generated and signed by individuals in the group. In that case, it is usually assumed that each writer/composer/lyricist shares equally in the composition. So you and other members of the band who collaborated on any given song may have a right to claim your share in the ownership of that song. Because one member has already registered the copyrights as the sole owner, this could get complicated and I would suggest that you get some legal representation if you intend to pursue this.
    The next problem is with filing the copyright on the Sound Recordings as you mentioned. The same rules would apply here with regards to the division of ownership. It is possible that by claiming the Sound Recordings as your own, solely, that you would be stealing the other band members' rights to their share of the ownership in the Sound Recordings the same way that the other member stole your share of the songs. In the big leagues, this doesn't usually become an issue, because the Record Company owns almost everything; songs, recordings, lock, stock, and barrel. But they also pay for everything and that's the tradeoff.
    Hope This Helps!
    JS
     
  4. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    Copyright exists as soon as a creative work exists in tangible form. It is not necessary to register a copyright in order to secure legal protection. If you physically have early drafts of the music and lyrics, especially if the material was seen by people outside the group who can swear to when it existed in finished form and which people contributed to creating it, you should be able to challenge the singer's claim to sole authorship. ("Ideas" cannot be copyrighted, only finished works.)

    Obviously in the future your best bet is to register such material as soon as possible. You can also mail copies of the songs to yourself in tamper-proof envelopes and put them in a safe-deposit box. The postmark and bank records will establish the date if there is ever a dispute and you need to have the envelope opened (in front of witnesses, probably in court) to establish when a work was created.

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  5. Mark Zimmer

    Mark Zimmer Producer

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    Anyone creating the finished work is an author with copyright rights. A registration is not actual ownership, it's just a statement of ownership. The Library of Congress doesn't check them out one iota.

    As noted above, you can copyright the sound recording separately from the song proper. Contact an attorney who practices entertainment law, NOW. There may well be ways through compulsory licensing to still market the recording even if the copyright to the underlying music and lyrics are split into fragments elsewhere.
     
  6. JonZ

    JonZ Lead Actor

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    I attended a school for comic book iluustration. As you can imagine alot of these guys are worried about other people stealing their ideas. Heres somethign we were taught there that involved only postage.

    Take samples of whatever it is yuou want to protect(characters, stories,probally music too) and mail it to yourself. Put it away somewhere and dont open it. I would suggest 2 or 3 copies.
    The PO will stamp the date on it and the fact that its sealed is your proof that on such and such a date the idea was yours.
    If youhad to go to court you could present this to a judge as evidence.
    Good Luck.
     
  7. BrianB

    BrianB Producer

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  8. Jeff Ulmer

    Jeff Ulmer Producer

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    I agree with Brian that the postage idea is pretty much a waste of time, but even having something notaraised won't necessarily stand up in court, and in the end that is what all of this is about - whether you can defend your rights in court. From a practical standpoint, most of this registration and so forth is a scam, since the only way it carries any weight is if you successfully win a court case. In the real world, unless there is a substantial amount of money involved, fighting this stuff out in court is a waste of time and money. It is not uncommon for people to register percentage splits incorrectly and then have to go back and revise them when it gets challenged. That happens all the time.

    As for the situation with the recordings, if the material has not been published, ie publicly released, the songwriter has the right of refusing publication, which is joint for all participants. However, since the only way to see any income from the songs is by publishing them, this becomes a vicious circle if someone is holding out. Once the song has been released, ANYONE can record it and release it, however, any royalties earned would be payable to the songwriters and publishers. If you paid for the recordings, then you could defend the ownership of the recordings. The songs would still be divided according to whatever agreement you have between yourselves. If you were to release the recordings without permission, from a legal standpoint the other party could seek an injunction, but by then the damage is done. Unless it is generating a lot of income, the bother of trying to assert your copyright is often not worth the effort.
     
  9. Tim Hoover

    Tim Hoover Screenwriter

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    Thanks for the replies, everybody!!! I would like to clarify a few things.

    Jeremy: I'm not seeking sole ownership of the recordings. I believe that the best way for a band to function is to divide everything equally. In this case, all four members would have joint ownership of the recordings.

    Jeff: Some of the material has been released in very small quantities. If our singer wants to claim the actual songs as his own and rerecord them, I personally have no problem with that as I'm not interested in them. The other band members may wish to challenge the actual song copyright. I just want to prevent our singer from using the band recordings for his sole benefit.
     
  10. Yee-Ming

    Yee-Ming Producer

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    off the top of my head, I believe the group collectively owns the copyright in the recordings of the recorded songs. you say "you" recorded the songs, but I assume this means you acted as a sound engineer, and that the recording was done for the entire group's benefit?

    on that basis, if the rest of you do not want your ex-singer to use the recordings to promote his solo career, that is your right. as for the songs themselves, again since it was a collaboration but since you have no problem with said singer singing and recording them again, it's not an issue, save that you'd be entitled to a share of the songwriters' royalty if and when such a recording is released and sold.

    another point: since the recorded song was recorded by the band collectively, if your ex-singer goes around touting it as "his" work, that's passing off, i.e. he's passing himself off as the band collectively. also a no-no, at least in English common-law jurisdictions, don't know what US passing-off law is. possibly trademark dilution as well?
     

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