With Kenny Love
A Question of Ownership -
Falling Out with Old Band Mates
Commentary by Kenny Love
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This week, we have a possible issue of legality and ethics, of which you probably don't want to ever find yourself
I have been a musician for 29 years, mainly playing guitar. Because I had problems finding other musicians that
could 'hear' my music the way I did, I learned other instruments so I could record my visions my way.
Such is the case with my last project. I composed and performed all the instruments' parts in the songs we recorded.
In fact, many of the lyrics were never even set in stone and the singer basically only contributed a concept and
title to most of them.
I have since had a falling out with my old band (after we were together 9 years) and now I am being approached
by some interested promoters and producers that say my music has commercial merit.
Is there any legal precedent against me using my material "As Is" and replacing the lyrics with my own?
Is this going to cause a legal battle with my old singer? Would he have a leg to stand on?"
- Stuck In Sacramento
I will respond to your questions on a dissecting scale, since such responses can, at points, tend to be intertwined...
> I composed and performed all the instruments' parts in the songs
> we recorded.
In this case, you are, at least, 50% creator/owner of the songs...the other percentage(s) will be based on whether
or not there were other contributors of lyrics.
> In fact, many of the lyrics were never even set in stone and the
> singer basically only contributed a concept and title to most of
By your stating that the singer "only contributed a concept and title to most of them" readily confirms
the singer's authorship to the particular version in question. Whether or not the lyrics were "set in stone,"
of which I assume you mean that they were never reduced to formal documentation/registration, is irrelevant.
For, the law of copyright assumes that the mere intellectual creation of a work, in part, or whole, is rightfully
owned by the creator. And, if you use lyrics that your former singer authored, your former singer is rightfully,
legally and ethically due royalties/compensation as the creator of such lyrics.
Again, Copyright and rightful ownership is legally determined by the creator at the time of creation, and not whether
or not the work is officially registered with such an organization as the Library of Congress.
Such registration is simply the means and process advised to be used to confirm and validate a date/time creation
of a work in question, primarily, for the legal system and the possible collection of damages should a dispute
such as this ever arise and reach its point.
> I have since had a falling out with my old band (after we were
> together 9 years) and now I am being approached by some
> interested promoters and producers that say my music has
> commercial merit.
Again, if your former singer, or any other band members contributed parts, whether instrumental or lyrical, they
are rightfully due compensation for their contributions.
And, if this is the case, you must determine whether or not your former band mates' contributions also contributed
to the attraction of the promoters and producers who are now interested in your music.
Alternatively, you should ask yourself, if you were to replace those specific parts, would the embodiment of work
still be attractive and interesting to these same promoters and producers?
Even still, let's say that your prospects were "hooked" by a melody that one of your former band mate(s)
created, and you replaced the lyrics, but kept the melody. In my opinion, you would still be liable to your former
band mate(s). In contrast, the same would be true if you replaced the melody, but kept lyrics that your former
compadres had written.
> Is there any legal precedent against me using my material "As Is"
> and replacing the lyrics with my own?
Again, see my previous answer, which begs the question of both legal and ethical ramifications.
> Is this going to cause a legal battle with my old singer?
Well, let's put it this way...if I contributed lyrics, music or otherwise to your recording that sold 10.5 billion
copies, and ended up winning Gold, Platinum and Multi-Platinum sales awards, I would come after you faster than
an Anaconda in an African jungle on a windy night... er, legally, that is...
> Would he have a leg to stand on?
Yes, he probably would. In fact, he might have two legs to stand on, not to mention three or four. Here's my
Don't allow what appears to be the first remnants of greed to creep into the situation, as a result of having sparked
the interest of people interested in taking your work to a higher level. You are better off nipping this situation
in the bud, so to speak, with your former members, and as quickly as possible while the situation is still legally
and financially manageable for all.
You are also likely to discover that the agreement or contract that you will be expected to sign with your prospects,
is going to contain a disclaimer/clause, whereby, it states that you assert that the work is completely owned by
you, and should any legal disputes arise, you are on your own and hold them harmless from any involvement or participation
in any resulting legal action. Again, it is better to settle this issue with your former members immediately.
Kenny Love has
an extensive background in both the Music and Writing industries. Learn about the new services that he is providing
to unsigned and independent recording artists in response to today's shaken and fractionalized Music industry by
sending an email request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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