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Another Copyright question/Band Rant

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by cyprus, Dec 18, 2011.

  1. cyprus


    Apr 23, 2007
    I apologize for yet another copyright/band rant thread. I've searched through many of the other ones and have gained a lot of valuable info. and am just looking to get advice and opinions on my situation.
    I apologize for the length as well, and you can skip through to the last couple of paragraphs.

    So about 2 years I met a guitarist who I got along with very well. We shared many of the same influences, and just meshed great. Since meeting, he and I have been through thick and thin trying to form a band. We've gone through 11+ drummers, 7+ rhythm guitarists, and numerous other members. I helped him go from a combo amp with a Squier guitar, to a tube halfstack and a number of good guitars and effects pedals. I spent days and nights looking for the best deals, and even did the hour long drives to pick things up. We'd been through a lot, and I could honestly call him my best friend. Things had been going well this past year. We found a solid and talented drummer, a great second lead guitarist, and we had just found a new singer within the last month.

    We left off last Monday's practice in high spirits, and we had all agreed that we would be going in to record within 6 weeks (we even did the admittedly gay "put your hands in, count to 3, and yell band name circle" thing). We were all really excited.

    Well about 3 days later, we all get a message on Facebook saying he had an epiphany, and decided he longer wanted to play with us. He wanted to pursue other dreams and life goals, like school, work, family etc.
    We all wished him the best of luck, told him he'd be missed, said there were no hard feelings, and we invited him to play on the recordings if he wanted to. Everything seemed to be fine.

    Fast forward to today:
    He and I both work for the same car transport company but different departments (he drives the cars and I do the paperwork). I hear him come into the office at the end of the day and asks if I'm there and hear my cousin (who's also a coworker and our new singer) say "yeah, he's in the other room, go talk to him." He had mentioned wanting to talk to me the day before, but I didn't think anything of it.
    The conversation started off well, and since I hadn't seen him in about a week I asked him how his day was and stuff, how many cars he moved, models, etc. Just being polite and catching up. Things were going well when out of no where he decides to get off what was on his chest and basically says "So I went and copyrighted our songs. I put them under my name, and I did the art too. I want to protect whats mine."
    At this point I was really shocked, confused, and pretty angered. He went behind all of our backs and tried to copyright everything without giving us credit. I honestly can't remember very much of what he or I said after that. I couldn't think, and was literally shaking with anger. I told him to just get out after that. I found out from my cousin afterward that the guitarist had told him the night before and was just as shocked as I was, and that the guitarist wasn't even going to tell me and that was why he had yelled at him to go talk to me when he came asking for me.

    I'm now left wondering what my best course of action should be. I researched and read that copyrights don't work the way he thinks they do. He can't just go out and put everything under his name without giving us writer's credits (or at least I hope). And I doubt he can do much about the art and logos and things. I have receipts, paypal transaction, and bank records that show that I've payed for all of that with my own money.

    We're still planning to go in and record, which admittedly will be a bit more difficult because he and I were going to split the costs.

    He's trying to claim the songs as his, and receive credit for everything, including parts he didn't write. I'm wondering if we should file for copyright as well, but the right way, with name of every person who wrote and contributed on there. And if so, should we do it asap? We have multiple home recordings, with everyone on there including him. I even have a few of when it was just the two of us, but with different members and different versions of the songs.

    Or should we wait until we have the songs professionally recorded and arranged? That will take between 2-3 months.

    What would you guys do or suggest?
  2. cyprus


    Apr 23, 2007
    The thing that really sucks is that this guy was my "best friend" for the longest time.

    And for all of you who go on the site reading all these rants and stories and think "I don't need to write a contract." or "Get things down in writing" or "protect myself just yet," well, I highly advise you think otherwise. This is not even my first time going through a situation like this. :scowl:

    The reason I met this guy was because my last band broke up in much the same way.
    I left the other band thinking I'd try again and learn from my mistakes. I'd never really thought of writing contracts, or getting everything clear and in writing. Instead I thought that we would have serious band meetings, and everyone had an equal voice. I made sure everyone was respected and was heard. I would constantly push everyone to speak up if they didn't like something and to voice their opinion. That way there wouldn't be any hard feelings, we'd all be in agreement, and things would progress and flow smoothly.

    Well... I'm an idiot for thinking that. :rollno:
  3. cyprus, i have studied intellectual property law as part of my law degree (albiet in australia - still a common law country - our copyright laws are fundamentally quite similar, although there are still big differences) and contrary to what others will maybe advise on this site, i suggest that you just go straight ahead and record it, and then file for copyright afterwards.

    the way i see it, is that if you record these songs and he claims copyright infringement, he has to prove you stole the songs, and it would seem from what you've said that he is not going to be able to prove that he is the sole owner of both the music and artwork. in addition to this, what you are recording will likely be different to the exact music which he has filed for copyright for. so why mess around with him at the moment before you've even done anything? you are the one with all the records of transactions for things, not him.

    on the other hand, i do understand that if you do just go ahead and record this, and he claims infringement, you'll both need lawyers, and that's expensive. sadly, i think no matter what you do, if he actually acts on this copyright, you're gonna need a lawyer.

    to conclude, i have no professional experience in this area of law and by no means should you take this advice without consulting others first, but it's what i'd do. i am positive that others on here will know more than me, but i thought i'd pitch in.

    edit - you have the recordings, do you have partial recordings on your computer that he doesn't have?
  4. TBrett


    Nov 3, 2007
    Toronto, Canada
    Who wrote the lyrics and melody for the tunes?
  5. cyprus


    Apr 23, 2007
    Thanks Valentine,
    Yeah we were thinking of going through with the recordings anyway.We figure that none of us can afford to go through court and hire a lawyer, and even if he does, we have quite a bit of evidence in our favor.
    And yes, I have several different versions of our songs that he most likely has never even heard.

    All of the lyrics were written by myself, our original singer, and our newest guitarist. None by the person that left.
    All of the songs were a collaboration of a few members. Mainly myself, and both guitarists. One of the songs was by both myself and said ex-guitarist.
  6. tycobb73


    Jul 23, 2006
    Grand Rapids MI
    I'd get to an attorny quick. Its probably not going to turn out like you or the guitarist think. Flea is still a litte upset for not getting any writing credit or royalties for Bust A Move, even though the bass is an important element of the song.
  7. TBrett


    Nov 3, 2007
    Toronto, Canada
    I'm no expert in copyright law, but all the research I've done seems to indicate that when it comes to a song, it's the lyrics and melody that are generally considered the defining factors of the intellectual property.

    Edit: Do any of you know any lawyers that might be able to give you some preliminary advice? While you're at it, if the rest of you are going to move forward as a band, why not sign a band partnership agreement and songwriting agreement? There are free samples available on the web. It could spare you numerous other nightmarish situations down the road. So sorry to hear what happened - really can't believe the guy would do such a thing!
  8. Rick Auricchio

    Rick Auricchio Registered Bass Offender

    If neither of you is prepared to sue in court, then the best you can hope for is a cease-and-desist letter from an attorney. And there's no guarantee the other party will in fact cease.

    If you can't afford to sue, then having a copyright does nothing for you.
  9. maxiegrant

    maxiegrant Bassist in Transition

    Nov 26, 2007
    Sellersburg, IN

    Record now. File for copyright now. You can upload your material via the internet and get registered in a few days.

    I almost hesistate to ask this but: you guys are kind of young right? Your mention of pursuing school and the general narrative sound like you're fresh out of high school possibly. Your best work is in front of you. Having a copyright on your material only matters if you make money from royalties, which is not a given. If this guy is trying to jilt you out of your material one way to get the better of him is to make a point of moving on with your development and doing things he can not possibly claim a piece of.

    And one thing you need to promise yourself: don't let this user suck you in again. He's obviously bent on being given something he didn't earn the rights to and he will do it again in a heartbeat if given the chance.

    But anyway, you can have your copyrights claimed right away and since they are sound recordings he is not a part of he won't have much of a case. If you start earning money from your music you can then hire an attorney based on those earnings. He will have to talk his Mom into loaning him a retainer. If you don't earn any money, then he's made an ass of himself and let you onto his game before you do your serious work.
  10. ^ Hit the nail on the head here.

    Get your stuff recorded, create a band agreement and then try and register your songs. You could even change the names and register them - you would likely be in breach of copyright but then he'd actually have to do something about it.

    It is just the stupidest thing ever on his part... I don't understand egotistical people like that, the singer from my band did the same thing with a few of our songs after he quit the band and now he is languishing in obscurity while we are performing around the city and interstate with better versions of the songs. Sadly, in Australia you do not need to copyright anything, as the moment as something is created it automatically attracts copyright so long as you can prove you created something before someone else.

    Additionally.. If you infringe upon copyright, you're not going to go to jail. It's a civil wrong, so the other person has to prove in court that you are infringing upon their copyright - so if he does something stupid like trying to call the cops on you it'll be quite a laugh!
  11. Music Attorney

    Music Attorney

    Feb 22, 2004
    I'm a little confused (not that it's unusual and, admittedly, I read the thread quickly).

    You say

    But then you say

    Regardless, this sounds like a classic situation involving joint authors as well as "copyright registration." I've posted about both of these topics. Have you read them?

    In short, it sounds like the situation is a "he said / he said" situation and that's not good. Often times, these situations are not resolved based on what's "right" or "fair" or "legal." If you can come to some amicable agreement as to the status of the songs (i.e. who wrote what), I can post a short songwriter split agreement that should memorialize everyone's understanding and agreement with respect to the songs.

    If you can't reach agreement, then go ahead and register the songs as you see fit. If there's ever an issue (i.e., the guy makes a copyright infringement claim or makes a claim for royalties), then you can deal with it at the time. It doesn't seem like now is the time to get a lawyer involved. Without debating whether he should get a piece of the songs, if you can agree to songwriter splits with him, then problem solved. If you can't, then I doubt either side really has the resources to pay lawyers to resolve the situation and you'll just have to wait until there's an actual issue which is almost certainly going to be a function of the songs generating money which is the very time it's easier to bring lawyers into the mix. The evidence isn't likely to change. Keep all your notes, recordings, files, etc. regarding creation of the songs. And make sure you send the guy something in writing saying you disagree with his assertion that he wrote any part of the song. No need for a bunch of back and forth. Just get your position on record.

    Also, if you're going to "negotiate" something with this guy, make sure it's clear in writing that you disagree with his position and that you're only discussing sharing a portion of the songs with him in order to avoid problems later and make sure the rights are all settled.

    Found this.


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