Song Copyrights - Jemsite
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-27-2008, 08:05 PM Thread Starter
 
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Thumbs down Song Copyrights

I have an issue that I am hoping that someone here on Jemsite will be able to help me with or point me in the right direction at least. I will do my best to keep it as brief as possible.

Up until the end of March 2008, I was in a local cover band (guitar) that also dabbled in originals. We had 4 originals written and were playing most of them out on a regular basis. We even went into the studio and recorded a very rough demo of each one several months ago. I wrote the music for each of the songs (the bassist and drummer added their parts accordingly) and the lead singer wrote the lyrics.

Fast forward to today... The lead singer, who officially left our band at the end of March, has found a new "all original" (from what I have seen and heard they play more covers than originals) band. Over the weekend, they performed a show that was broadcast on MySpace. I watched a recording of the show and was shocked (and severely pissed off) to hear the lead singer announce our old band's most popular original as their new original. From what I could tell, it appears they added an intro, modified the verses slightly, and changed the break, but everything else remains the same.

My question to you guys is, what, if anything, can I do about this? Does he have any legal rights to play our original with his new band? As I stated earlier, he did write the lyrics, but that was it. Can/should I copyright the entire song or just the music in order to stop them from playing it? I have the backing of the bassist and drummer as they know that the lyrics he wrote wouldn't even exist if I hadn't brought the music in to the band. I also want to take whatever steps I can to protect the other 3 completed originals plus a new song that we were working when the band disbanded. I would greatly appreciate any and all help. Thanks in advance for your time!
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-27-2008, 09:14 PM
 
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Re: Song Copyrights

They can perform it as much as you want, just like you guys did when performing cover songs. However, if they ever decide to record and release it, it's a different story.
Copyright it properly, credited accurately.
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-27-2008, 10:07 PM
 
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Re: Song Copyrights

Copyright protection begins at the conception of a song or other work. Without registering the copyright, however, good luck proving who created it in a court of law. You'd be spending more money than its worth. If they made it big with your tune... that's another story. You'd still need a good case and an attorney - and last I checked they ain't cheap.
The song would have to differ significantly, too, for your friend to be able to call it his own. He couldn't be like Vanilla Ice sitting up there with an S-eating grin saying "mine goes ding-DING-ding-ding-ditti-ding-ding!"
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-28-2008, 02:02 AM
 
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Re: Song Copyrights

They have books that might offer help.
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-28-2008, 02:44 AM
 
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Re: Song Copyrights

Quote:
Originally Posted by Type O- View Post
My question to you guys is, what, if anything, can I do about this?
I see this sort of thing all the time. I feel for ya bro!! I've had some of my material stolen as well. Hopefully he hasn't already copyrighted the song. If he did then you have no recourse unless you have $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$. Proving that you wrote it is difficult and the fact they added breaks and an intro doesn't help.

I'd suggest copyrighting your remaining songs immediately and check to see if he has rights to the song in question. If he doesn't, then copyright the parts/structure, etc of the song that you wrote. You've publicly admitted that he wrote the lyrics so you are out of luck with that part of it

www.GoCopyright.com

Move fast!!!
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-28-2008, 05:14 AM
 
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Re: Song Copyrights

I went through something similar about 6 years ago and the way I sorted things out was by confronting the ex-band members and letting them know they're free to play my songs as long as they gave me credit. In this case however I wrote both the music and lyrics and people outside the band also knew very well I wrote most of the music.

Legally, you can't prove you wrote it unless you released an EP/demo with credits going to you. That said, if you do record an EP/demo now and include credits, you have something to start with.
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-28-2008, 07:26 AM
 
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Red face Re: Song Copyrights

You can't copyright a chord progression. Even though on the copyright form it reads as Music and Lyrics, the only copyrightable work are the lyrics and melody. In some cases of very famous songs after years of popularity a riff can be considered a copyright infringed piece...

I am a singer, and I wrote 98% of all songs any band I was in. Around 2000 I left a band I was in, a year later they were playing all the really good songs we did and shopping them around trying to get a deal. They changed the lyrics completely in one of the songs but the melody stayed the same. I was also still playing some of these songs, in the same circuit. All of my songs are copyrighted, so I was ecstatic. If they got signed I would have gotten paid, and maybe had a chance to do some writing for others.

This is a business, and you need to be responsible just like in any business! Anybody who wants to cover your songs is an opportunity. Anybody who created a song with you deserves to be able to perform and change that song to suit their need!! Nothing is stopping you from also performingg the song in it's original version, or changing the lyrics to suit your need...

Quote:
Originally Posted by JJEMMER777 View Post
Wow!! I remember when it was $10.00 to copyright a song. Then it went to $15.00 & then $20.00...I was flipping out over that! Damn I'm old...

Last edited by DEADTUNES666; 05-28-2008 at 07:33 AM. Reason: added the quote
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-28-2008, 08:14 AM
 
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Re: Song Copyrights

Quote:
Originally Posted by DEADTUNES666 View Post
You can't copyright a chord progression.
True, but you can copyright the song in it's entirety minus the lyrics. AKA - an instrumental

Quote:
Originally Posted by DEADTUNES666 View Post
Wow!! I remember when it was $10.00 to copyright a song. Then it went to $15.00 & then $20.00...I was flipping out over that! Damn I'm old...
Yep, you're WAY ~OLD~


There are many ways to get your material copyrighted. The websites are the easiest and there are a ton of them with varying prices. Just make sure they are legit. Also (usually) you can just pay the *said price* for as many songs as you want to copyright. So it's not like you have to pay $ 59.00 per song. Just have a CD ready and you can copyright the whole lot at the same rate
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-28-2008, 08:23 AM
 
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Red face Re: Song Copyrights

Quote:
Originally Posted by JJEMMER777 View Post
True, but you can copyright the song in it's entirety minus the lyrics. AKA - an instrumental
In the case of an instrumental the lead instrument acts as the melody or copyrighted line...

Quote:
Originally Posted by JJEMMER777 View Post
Yep, you're WAY ~OLD~
I know it man...

Quote:
Originally Posted by JJEMMER777 View Post
Also (usually) you can just pay the *said price* for as many songs as you want to copyright. So it's not like you have to pay $ 59.00 per song. Just have a CD ready and you can copyright the whole lot at the same rate
Yeah, there is a limit, it used to be 8 songs, it may have changed. You would be copyrighting essentially a medley of your material...It's a way to keep the $$ down...
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-28-2008, 12:08 PM Thread Starter
 
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Re: Song Copyrights

Thanks to everyone that has replied! I am working on getting the masters from the studio to send in with the copyright application. I am planning on copyrighting the entire composition with credit given to the singer for writing the lyrics. I am not out to screw him like he is trying to do to me.

My main problem with this whole situation is the fact that the singer is announcing the song as their new original. The fact of the matter is that he wouldn't have those 4 songs if it wasn't for me. In a span of 6 years, he wrote 1 song with his brother and 4 with me (I was only in the band 2 years and we were primarily a cover band).

As soon as I have the copyright sorted out, I am going to send an email to his new band to let them know that I wrote the music to their new original, no matter what the singer tells them (he fits the description of pathological liar to a T). If necessary, I know the drummer and bassist will back me up as they were part of the process and know exactly who wrote what. I am also going to reference a blog they have on their MySpace that addresses a similar situation they had with one of their previous singers. They state that even though their previous singer may have written the lyrics, the songs remain with the band because they wrote the music. I guess we'll see if this is really a two-way street with them.

Does anyone have any experience with copyrights in which they share the credit with someone else? Do both parties have rights to the entire song? Can either party record and release it as they see fit? I would really like to find another singer that can do these songs justice and re-record them. However, I wasn't sure if I could legally use the lyrics without the singer's permission since he did write them. To be totally honest, I don't know if I even want to use his lyrics after how this whole situation has gone down.

Thanks again for all of your help!
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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-28-2008, 01:23 PM
 
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Re: Song Copyrights

You can copyright anything through the Library of Congress. It costs $35 to do it online, and $45 if you send in a paper copy. Just make sure you send it in certified mail so you have a record that it got where it was going as the date it was received is the date the official copyright goes into affect.

If you don't file it with the LOC, then you can only sue for actual damages done by someone else recording or performing your material. If you do file it then there are statutory damages and various options for calculating the damages.

In the end, it is hard to prove that there were any damages done by some unknown, unsigned, band singing a song in public. Now if they are recording, getting signed, touring, and making serious money for someone (label) then you can get something out of it. However, the label will most likely have a clause that they are responsible for their own legal problems resulting from improperly used materials.

File the material with the LOC. Then call them up and say hey guys, if you want to use my material, I will license it to you for a small fee. That way, they are able to use the song, you make money, everyone is happy. If they don't want to pay then they need to completely change the music to the piece and make it original.
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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-28-2008, 01:56 PM
 
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Re: Song Copyrights

sounds just like my story. i recorded all the songs, as i was in the process of laying tracks before we separated. as soon as all was mixed and mastered i had all tunes copyritten under my name with BMI. bmi.com after i sent a cd and paperwork to BMI, i believe i found out they were playing the tunes in clubs, weeks after we separated. i think i found out they were going to record as well. i sent a letter stating they can play the tunes out but anything beyond that is forbidden...sending a copy of the copyright papers to the singer as well. that took care of that. so GET ON IT MAN!
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