Music Law 101: Who Owns The Copyright In A Song?

After your band has written and recorded a song, who actually owns the song? This simple question does not necessarily have a simple answer. How many people were involved in the writing process? Were there other people involved in the recording process? Did you hire a producer? Did you use other background vocalists or musicians in the studio? Did you use “work made for hire” agreements with individuals involved in the process? Do you have a band agreement? The answers to these and other important questions help determine who actually owns the copyrights in any given song.

In general, the individual who writes or records an original song owns the copyright in the musical work or sound recording. So if only one person is involved in the writing and recording process, then that person owns the resulting copyrights.

Of course, it is more common for two or more individuals to be involved and contribute to the writing and recording process. Co-authors of a song or recording co-own the copyright in that work. Absent a written agreement otherwise, co-authors of a song each jointly own an equal undivided interest in the copyrights (i.e., 2 co-authors each own 50%, 3 co-authors each own 33.3%, and etc.). Thus, even if one co-author actually wrote 90% of the song and the other co-author only wrote 10% of the song, if they don’t agree in writing otherwise, they each own 50%.

Whether an individual is an author (or co-author) generally depends on whether the individual has “control” over the creation process—that is, whether that person was the “mastermind” behind originating the work. Where there are two or more creators of a copyright, the creators are co-authors and joint owners when the authors intend their contributions to merge to become part of a whole. Accordingly, individuals who write or record music together are generally co-owners under copyright law.

When joint owners have not entered into a written agreement otherwise, each co-owner has the authority to grant a non-exclusive license to a third party without the co-owner’s consent. A non-exclusive license means that others can also use or exploit the work at the same time as the third party. If a co-owner attempts to convey exclusive rights to a third party, an exclusive license effectively becomes a non-exclusive license. A joint owner of a copyright cannot sue a co-owner for infringement. But a joint owner can bring a claim against a co-owner for an accounting on any profits earned by the co-owner from the joint work.

In certain situations where the individual author is acting as an employee or otherwise under a “work made for hire” agreement, his or her employer or principal will own the song as a “work made for hire.” In the case of a “work made for hire,” the employer/hiring party—not the individual writer—is the “author” and owns the copyright.

Whether someone is “employed” for purposes of determining whether a song is a “work made for hire” does not require a formal employment relationship. Rather, “employment” is generally determined by whether the “employer” has control over the creation of the work (i.e., has the work done at the employer’s location and provides equipment or other means to create the work) and control over the “employee” (i.e., controls the employee’s schedule in creating the work, has the right to have the employee perform other assignments, etc.). The closer an employment relationship comes to regular, salaried employment, the more likely it is that a work created in the scope of that employment will be a “work made for hire.” Examples include a musical arrangement written for a music company by a salaried arranger on the company’s staff, or a sound recording created by salaried staff engineers of a record company.

Where there is not an “employment” relationship, a work may still be a “work made for hire” where the parties enter into an agreement signed by each party that expressly provides that the work is a “work made for hire.” However, under copyright law, only specific categories of works can qualify as a “work made for hire” this way. In particular, Congress did not include sound recordings in the specific categories—so, a sound recording alone can’t be a “work made for hire” absent an “employment” relationship.

Because there can be uncertainty over whether a work is created on a “work made for hire” basis, music contracts will typically provide “work made for hire” language and alternate copyright assignment language. We will discuss copyright assignments and transfers in a future Music Law 101 post.

In short, where more than one individual is involved in writing and recording a song, copyright ownership can be complicated. The individuals may be joint owners with equal undivided interests, or ownership could be determined on a “work made for hire” basis. The best practice is to enter into agreements with co-creators to make sure that everyone’s intention as to ownership is agreed upon and clearly specified in writing.

Now that you know what copyright law protects, and how ownership of copyrights is determined, stay tuned for our next Music Law 101 post, in which we will explain the different exclusive rights a copyright owner has in his or her work.

The Music Law 101 series is provided by Coe W. Ramsey and Amanda M. Whorton of the law firm Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard LLP. Brooks Pierce provides sophisticated and strategic counsel to a wide variety of clients in the entertainment industry, including artists, musicians, songwriters, record producers, DJs, artist managers, radio stations, television stations, new media companies, record and publishing companies, film and television producers, advertisers, actors and reality TV talent, radio talent, and literary authors and publishers. The Music Law 101 series provides a survey introduction to the laws in the United States relevant to the music industry, is not intended as and shall in no way be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific set of facts or circumstances, and shall not be construed as creating an attorney-client relationship.

RebeccaMusic Law 101: Who Owns The Copyright In A Song?


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  • Henry Orellana - June 9, 2018 reply


  • Hoy - August 10, 2018 reply

    If a producer happen’s to the person sponsoring the “work for hire” what happens to the song writer and the singer

  • Tooly "223" - November 10, 2018 reply

    Broke and in need of a distro deal…

  • Colette Doherty - April 8, 2019 reply

    If I am an author of book and wrote the lyrics to send to recording company to make song does that mean I still have ownership of copyright?colette

    RB - December 9, 2019 reply

    You will always have copyright ownership once your work is in some tangible form (a book)… unless some other agreement is reached in advance. Be sure to register it before you showcase/release/share it. That’s a huge benefit for you in the event of challenges. If the recording company “creates” music for your book, they equally share the copyright ownership with you (50/50). If you tell them what to play AND the play what you say (because you’re not a musician) and you pay them for their involvement, then a work for hire situation exists and you would maintain 100% of the ownership. All of this needs to be clear up front or you will face copyright owneship challenges. Record companies have more money and clout than most “artists.” That money and clout affords them great power when copyright issues are not made clear in the beginning. FYI: The record company would need your permission to do anything with the completed work just as you would need theirs… if what you end up with is a shared copyright.

    Eric Krauss - November 13, 2020 reply

    I am the writer of the lyrics of my bands songs and the original member and creator of the name ….I left the band and asked them not to use my lyrics to the songs and they could keep the name and use the music because they created that part of the recorded tracks ….come to find out they posted videos of the new vocalist using my lyrics heat can I do ?

    C - July 18, 2021 reply

    I had this occur to me as well within the past year, as a previous lyricist and singer in a band. I shortly joined and eventually left amicably to find one day they re-recorded a song exactly as I had sung it with the same lyrics, with a different singer without consulting me. I’m working out how to navigate it still. So far I’ve filed a copyright focused on the lyrics and had a takedown on soundcloud issued successfully. While I’m still working with the copyright office, it looks like my options are to establish my lyrics as a pre-existing work, which they technically are – or go through with filing it with everyone involved, like stated above, as jointly co-owning the sound recording for their parts of contribution. Or perhaps, with more difficulty, and admitted bias toward myself, claim myself as the person ‘hiring’ the work for hire – the band – since that was essentially what I was doing – I was vetting them first essentially – but it seems that would likely require much more concise written agreements where there were not any formal agreements made about the circumstances. Maybe that clears up some murkiness for you around your options.

  • Darryl wright - April 10, 2019 reply

    I two artist that signed a development agreement with record under the company at the time.they record songs and I have the master.and I’ve reach out to them but they won’t sign copyrights and I want to put song out.what do I do???????

    RB - December 9, 2019 reply

    Your case depends completely on what is meant by a “development” deal. If the development deal includes your help to write and/or compose the songs, you own an equal part of the copyright, but you would need to get permission from the other parties to put the songs out. If they write the song(s), the lyrics, the music, etc, they own the rights and there’s nothing you can do unless there’s some breach of a contract giving you some authority to do as you please. At that point everything depends on the contract. They (or you) can only breach what’s in the contract. If you are a studio owner, you are not entitled to do anything with the music/song(s)… unless it’s agreed upon in the wording of the “development deal.” The same applies if you’re a manager or promoter. Your authority or control has to do with developing the artsts… if I understand what you mean when you say development agreement correctly. If you are not an actual contributor to the creation of the music and the artst breaches the deal, you can hold the masters hostage until you are made whole. You can’t do anything with their songs without their permission. If you are a contributor, then you are an equal owner of the work. However, as an equal owner, you still need permission from the other parties to do anything with the song(s). In your case the wording in the development contract is critical. Hope this helped.

    Destiny Pulliam - May 29, 2022 reply

    What happens if you breach a distribution deal by uploading your music even if you were the author and the songwriter?

  • Joe Perez - June 28, 2019 reply

    This is a 2 part question: what happens if there is no written agreement on creation or writing process and band is broken up years ago.( I must note that 1 of the 4 band members has passed away. ) The only real ownership or possession is the recordings themselves and owns the console that hold the master tracks….So my question is ,who owns the rights???

    RB - December 9, 2019 reply

    The simple answer is everyone involved in the creation of the music has equal ownership. Even the deceased member until 75 years after his passing. That may have been reduced to 50 years, but I think 75 is accurate. The issue here may come down to proving who actually contributed to the creation of the music. All that aside, if anyone (even me) submits an application for copyright of the material, they (I) would own the rights since there’s nothing to say/prove otherwise.

  • Ronan McElroy - June 30, 2019 reply

    If i wrote the musical accompaniment of a song and not the lyrics can i request that the artist no longer uses my accompaniment? Any help on this would be great

    RB - December 9, 2019 reply

    It depends. If you were hired to “create music” for a bunch of words; which is to say the lyricist had no melody ideas and you were the only one involved in the creation of the music… in essence you “wrote” music to a poem, then the answer is yes. The lyricist needs your permission to do anything with the song (which includes your music). The flip side of this is that you need the other person’s permission as well because you both own the copyright equally.

    If the lyricist sang a melody AND you figured out what to play to go along with that melody AND you were paid for what you figured out and played, without some other agreement in place, what you did was a work for hire. The copyright and what you played belong to the lyricist. If you were not paid AND/OR the lyricist simply asked you to put some music to some words AND that music became a part of the finished work, then you equally share the copyright… unless there is a separate agreement in place.

  • Janice Slade - September 27, 2019 reply

    What if you wrote the lyrics to a song and had a verbal agreement with the singer that if it makes it he would not forget about me,but he claims he wrote it,what can I do legally?

    RB - December 9, 2019 reply

    Unfortunately, without copyright registration documentation stating your role/part, it’s an uphill battle for you. If you protected your lyrics before the singer did anything with them, you’re golden. The verbal agreement won’t hold up in court (unless you hire a better attorney than the singer). If you recorded the agreement on your phone, you may have a chance. NEVER SHARE YOUR LYRICS, MUSIC OR IDEAS WITH ANYONE UNTIL YOU COPYRIGHT THEM… EVEN IF IT’S SOMEONE YOU TRUST. I’m not yelling. Just putting emphasis on a critically important piece of information. I copyrighted something last month. The cost is now $55/application. It’s well worth it to protect your work.

  • Jimmy Humphrey - November 16, 2019 reply

    I have a huge following on LinkedIn and Facebook but hardly anything on reverbnation and I’ve followed all the suggestions, I’m even getting the lifetime achievement award but nothing here what’s up..

  • Archie - December 18, 2019 reply

    If I wrote the lyrics and chords to my songs, do the band members have any copywrite ownership after we recorded and release the tracks on a CD and submitted to a few media platforms ?

    Ron Whitemyer - November 5, 2020 reply

    That’s up to you guys. Did the other band members contribute anything to the song that is essential to the song? Something that if it wasn’t there the song wouldn’t be recognizable? If you wrote a song and your feeling is that the guys playing along are just keeping rhythm and not really adding to the overall identity of the song. They don’t have to be credited for writing. But you can give them credit if that’s the agreement you came up with. Some bands are like that. All songs written by…the band. Helps keep the peace I suppose.

  • Vickie Graham Smith - December 19, 2019 reply

    My dad wrote song and recorded a couple songs I in the late 50s or early 60s..I have seen two of his songs On YouTube, He’s passed away in 76 and I am trying to find out Who holds the copyright.He recorded the song at D&B Studio in Nashville.Tennessee…..Please help thank you

    JM - February 13, 2020 reply

    Contact ASCAP and BMI to see if the song is listed with them. They will be able to tell you who owns the rights. You can also search the US copyright office website.

  • James Rockford - January 1, 2020 reply

    Thank you for the brilliant article. I have two questions which I”m hoping you can answer or direct me to the right place, please.
    I wrote and recorded with another person. There is no written contract, but both our names are on the copyright registrations, as equal authors on everything (sound recording, composition, claimants). Our relationship dissolved, but I want to try to get placements (sync licenses) for the music. I heard music supervisors need approval from each author before the songs can be cleared. When an author can not be reached or may have a grudge against the other author, what are the options that the song can be used in terms of granting licenses?

    Thank you so much in advance

  • ZZ - January 14, 2020 reply

    Hello, years ago I was in a band with 3 other people and we wrote a song together and that song was distributed by a few labels/companies as a compilation cd. This was handled by one of the members of the band unbeknownst to me. I have audio recording of the practice in which the four of us wrote the song from start to finish. More than likely royalties were paid out but I was never compensated. What is the best route to take at this point to get compensation for my part In creating the song?

  • Hal - March 22, 2020 reply

    CD is recorded writer doesnt want to copyright but performer singer wants to copyright the sound recording.
    Can performer move forward with a publisher?

    Leah - April 8, 2022 reply

    Only the owner can copywrite a song they have written unless they give the song to you, you can’t copywrite something that isn’t yours I’m just applying a common sense thng here

  • Hana Tarek - March 27, 2020 reply

    I wrote a song yesterday but i don’t have a good voice to sing it
    If someone sang my song who would own it
    And who would be more famous?

    Pete Fegredo - April 26, 2020 reply

    Hi Hana,
    You may see this you may not. If you want someone else to sing your song in a studio environment ie, using a session singer.You must obtain a signed “work for hire” agreement from the singer before you record your song. You will then own the song and sound recording 100%. First of all to copyright a song before anyone else hears it is to record it on tape or disc with lyrics attached and post it to yourself. Leave it sealed and never open it if you are not a MCPS/PRS member. Never give your song to someone to sing without a signed agreement. Hope this helps.

    Leah - April 8, 2022 reply

    You write a song and register it with the PRS or American equivalent on their website as a member then you own it. You can let others sing and play it but you still own all rights as the writer. Anyone performs it in a license venue they should let you know so you can report it to the PRS and you will get a few quid for the one performance, any radio play should be automatic and you should get payment nto your bank account from the PRS

  • Courtney - May 9, 2020 reply

    Hi, my sister sang as a featured artist in a song and sung the second verse and bridge but did not write the lyrics. Does she get performing rights to the song?

    Leah - April 8, 2022 reply

    As a non writer no but a performer on the song as long as she has an agreed mechanical rights percentage I should think she could get some small payment unless she was paid a one off fee as for example Herbie Flowers did the amazing Bass playing on “On the Wild side” for a one off payement I think it was near £70 at the time (could be well wrong though) and that was a lot of money then but he got no royalties for it which in the long run would have made a lot more money

  • Vincent alexander - May 17, 2020 reply

    My daughter and her ex-boyfriend we’re sharing the production of one of her songs. When they broke up he kept the session and claims that he owns the musical arrangements instead of acknowledging that they both do. Can she record the song in her computer making a similar version but not identical to stop this madness and then register the sound recording to her name. She owns the copyright of the ssong, and he claims he registered some musical arrangements

  • Jonny - May 25, 2020 reply

    I have produced a song for a friend who approached me with lyrics and a chord progression. I used my own personal studio and recording equipment to record her parts. I constructed a full arrangement with, including writing and playing the bass and all percussive elements. I further mixed the track and mastered it. I had just assumed I would receive 50% for this work however she has put it out for distribution and is refusing to give me 50%. Am i entitled to this amount? what can i do to resolve this?

  • Doug lucas - May 27, 2020 reply

    I’m getting ready to have my band put music (I have main chord structure and timing) to my original music. How should I compensate them? And what forms or processes?

  • Gary - June 7, 2020 reply

    I am a producer and engineer. I am parting ways with a client on personal grounds. He has requested unfinished sessions to be sent to him claiming they are “paid for”. He has paid for studio time, nothing else. I have produced and engineered/recorded all of these works including performing the instruments and giving creative input. We have no formal contract. The works took place in my studio with my equipment and again he’s only compensated me for time. What would my obligations to him be?

  • JohnnySea - June 11, 2020 reply

    Where can one get sample agreements so that paid studio musicians do not come back and claim a copyright?

  • Kim Harvey - June 15, 2020 reply

    I’m a singer and songwriter who found a really great musician producer. I wrote all my originate works/songs. When I write I have the melody in my head and forward over during the process of song recording. Granted don’t know how to play any instrument s. I have no written contract ( work for hire) however pay for studio time and receipt for services. Additionally I did the poor man copy, digital recording, handwritten and typed lyrics. In the process of submitting to Library’s of Congress via registration etc. Question is do I include music composer since he produce works when feeling out application and do I file only on my behalf since I created the lyric and singing ? pardon me but I’m growing and learning..

  • Oddvar Mørk - June 23, 2020 reply

    Hypothetically: I “find” a song that I like well and that I know is not claimed rights on, can I then claim ownership of this song? We assume that the actual composer cannot prove his ownership.

  • marquita coleman - June 24, 2020 reply

    I sang background vocals on a song…and now the song is being promoted as a single…there is no mentioned of me on the singles credits…nor have I been involved in any promo or shows…what are my legal rights…no paperwork was signed

    Leah - April 8, 2022 reply

    Don’t think you have any, but a little credit for it would be nice for your fb page though, I’ve done some small parts for others not worth chasing a possibility 30p payementwell not these days, just get the credit has more value on your resume

  • Banda - August 16, 2020 reply

    I’m a member of the church choir and composer/writer of the songs that we recorded for an album. There is “no written contract or work for hire” and the choir (church) are claiming copyright ownership. QUESTION: Who is the rightful owner of the copyright between I and the choir?

  • Dibbesh - September 1, 2020 reply

    Hi,I used other audio for my cover video by taking permission with youtuber. The producer of that audio is someone else .In this case copyright ownership belongs to whom a producer or youtuber?

  • javier - September 3, 2020 reply

    Thank you Rebecca, these posts are excellent!!

  • Manisha - September 7, 2020 reply

    I find a song that I like well and that I know is not claimed rights on, can I then claim ownership of this song? We assume that the actual composer cannot prove his ownership.

  • Daphne Smith - September 10, 2020 reply

    Hello, I’m planning a studio session to record my song. I am paying a guy to write and record the melody for me because I cant play an instrument and I’m not affiliated with any musicians. Do I need to have him and the studio sign a work for hire?

  • Partho oraw - September 24, 2020 reply

    Partho oraw- September 24, 2020reply
    I find a song that I like well and that I know is not claimed rights on, can I then claim ownership of this song? We assume that the actual composer cannot prove his ownership.

    Leah - April 8, 2022 reply

    I should think this would be seen as theft, you should write your own song and maybe write one similar as though it was an influence

  • Phung - October 12, 2020 reply

    For example: The song was written by Mr A in 1960, some music bands in USA played the sound track in 1975 and sale as karaoke DVD for everyone in Vietnamese in USA. I am living in USA use this sound track to sing a song and posted it on YouTube.
    The company names [Merlin]BHMedia Inc (website: in Vietnam claimed that they have copyright of this song event this company was just born in 2008 (Many long time after the song created)
    My questions are:
    1/ Do this company [Merlin]BHMedia Inc (website: has legal copyright of that song?
    2/ If YES, do their copyright is valid in USA?
    3/ If NO, how can I tell YouTube to suspense their claims?
    Thank you

  • Louise Woodcock - October 17, 2020 reply

    Copyright is such a minefield in the music industry – check your position before crossing the danger zone!

  • Zahid - October 24, 2020 reply

    Me and my friend made a song for a film I gave the music rights to Production House in 2013.
    The movie never ended up being released in 2013. So we decided to pull the song out and release it on my own in 2020.
    Now the producer is claiming I cannot release the song without his permission and taking legal action.

  • Eddie Hamby - October 26, 2020 reply

    Is it possible for me to give ownership of my original songs to my children and still be listed as the author? I would want them to get the royalties, I am just wondering if they would then be listed as the author of the works

    salim - November 3, 2020 reply

    Yes you can transfer them the copyrights while still remaining the author.

  • salim - November 3, 2020 reply

    I composed a song for a film that never got released.
    What happens If I uploaded the song I composed and uploaded to youtube without lyricist permission.

    kodjo - March 4, 2021 reply

    1- You been hired to composed the song?.
    2- No agreement been you and writer of lyricist or the film maker?.
    You are the ownership of your art if you didn’t been hired or sign a agreement policy with them.

  • enoch - December 1, 2020 reply

    If I wrote the lyrics to a rap song, and the beat was given to me, can I copyright not only the lyrics but also the beat?

    kodjo - March 4, 2021 reply

    You can copyright only lyric if you he didn’t hired you for wrote lyrics.
    Make him sign a agreement for the beat just on case you track become hit.. lol

  • Anita Kay - December 7, 2020 reply

    Bob Dylan just sold his catalog to Universal. I assume the copyright goes to Universal, therefore, does Bob Dylan need permission from Universal to perform songs in public?

  • Toni - December 22, 2020 reply

    If I wrote the chorus to a xmas song and sent it to the person who sang it and they recorded it for a group signed by sony and it is being released worldwide with no featuring artist and no recognition for the work and she hasnt signed any paperwork .. do I still own the lyrics to this song and how do I go about keeping ownership

  • cookie clicker - December 23, 2020 reply

    I like the music!

  • Ray - December 29, 2020 reply

    If I have composed a song and have had a work for hire drummer to do the drums and then hire a Bass player and he wants performing rights for his parts is he entitled to them. I told him the chords and the progression and told him to play it however he wants as long as it works with the song. We agreed upon a price for each song as well. But still, does that entitle him to any rights.

  • Robin Henkel - January 11, 2021 reply

    If I hire a musician to record on a session does a work for hire agreement necessitate that they need to be a W2 employee or can that person be hired and paid as an independent contractor?

  • legoland - February 1, 2021 reply

    i dont like copy song

  • Kopi - February 16, 2021 reply

    This is very interesting. I’ve been reading a lot of forums lately and this one is one of the most interesting forums I’ve been in. it’s nice to see that many people are engaging here. It’s always nice to see different ideas or perspectives .

  • Dee Alt - February 26, 2021 reply

    I wrote the lyrics to a song, and my guitarist composed the music to the song. We signed a 50/50 split sheet. Does the guitarist dictate what musicians to use once the song is ready to record? What rights do we each have in choosing musicians?

    kodjo - March 4, 2021 reply

    It think you need a manager to deal with it.
    It look like 2 captain on the boat.

  • kodjo - March 4, 2021 reply

    I took a old (1968) speech from a interview and put it on my track did i need a copyright or licence to before to release my track?.

  • Steve Black - April 9, 2021 reply

    I recorded an album for a company in 1974 with a five year contract and the company did not pay me any royalties saying the album didn’t sell. Now the company folded up in the early 80s and another company bought their equipment and now this year the new company is claiming ownership of my album. Are they right ? Even when I’ve never got a dime for the music both from the old original company and this new one ? And this new company is selling the album to reissue companies and publishing companies collecting money. How can I get back the ownership of the album after more than forty years ? Please help.

  • Vadell - April 10, 2021 reply

    Recorded a song with a producer I had a production contract with. The song was for my album featuring the artist. His album got rejected and he begged to use the song. I agreed only if he use it as a single. The label loved the song, he told the not to use it because it had 2 verses of me. I thought the deal feel through but he put the album out it has me featured but no writer credit. I haven’t made a dime and the album is still selling since 99

  • Cặp da nam - April 23, 2021 reply

    I find a song that I like well and that I know is not claimed rights on, can I then claim ownership of this song?

  • Vay tiền Online - April 23, 2021 reply

    If I am an author of book and wrote the lyrics to send to recording company to make song does that mean I still have ownership of copyright?

  • Jin - June 4, 2021 reply

    What if I’m the composer or the songwriter of the entire song but the producer suddenly changed the arrangements each part what should I do?

  • Clutch nam - July 7, 2021 reply

    Thanks you so much

  • Cặp da nam - July 7, 2021 reply

    That is a good article

  • lily - July 10, 2021 reply

    What if you compose music for a series of poems from a book. What kind of agreement do you need to have with the poet?

  • minesweeper - July 20, 2021 reply

    I have read your article, it is very meticulous and detailed, the content is also very unique, thank you for sharing this article.

  • Olivia Reels - August 13, 2021 reply

    For sharing this article, I’m now your biggest fan.

  • Jeanette Monroe - August 16, 2021 reply

    How do artists know for sure that they’re band name, logo, and songs are already copyright protected? For instance a band that was began in the early 1980’s by 2 main co-creators. The vocalist was unique and wrote very unique vocal melodies to specifically fit their voice. The bassist/guitarist would write the basics of the underlying music. Both would share in lyric writing, arrangements, and overall concepts. However, occassionally the guitarist and drummer would contribute to either lyrics, or music ideas. Compared to the main 2 people however, this was about 1 song to every 10 that main people wrote. When band recorded, all recordings were paid for by 2 main collaborators with some input from other musicians. Never used a producer, band produced all recordings. These were done as demo tapes then onto vinyl when offered distrubition. Now, years later 2 main collaborators are estranged. 1 is willing if any songs or merch deals go well to share 50/50. What if the other wants to put up a fight and say it was all their idea alone? What proof would the fighting party need and what proof would the other collaborator need? Also from now on, the vocalist is going to have everything written down and signed and done correctly.

  • Jeffrey Ball - August 26, 2021 reply

    Hello. I wrote and produced a song for an artist. The only thing the artist did was sing on the song. From a legal stand point, who should own the copyright and what is the recommended payout when it comes to royalties? 50/50, 80/20, etc?

    Dania - November 24, 2021 reply

    Hey there. I’m currently trying to figure out what steps I should take, and I thought this may be a good place to start. My fiancé is a musician who unexpectedly passed away about a week ago, right after his album release. (Digital Release took place on our own website, only available through purchase) We were actively looking into copyrighting all of his songs, before this happened.. Now, I am wondering what my options are as far as copyrighting the songs so that they can be distributed, and so that the royalties can benefit our family and help fund the business that we created together.. His biggest dream was to touch the world and make an impact with his music – and I am determined to honor that push for his dream and continue with many of the plans that we had, and I know that he would want me to.. Any input would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your time!

  • Henry Leo - August 30, 2021 reply

    I have been working on a fund raising song project that involves multiple artists. I asked an employee/musician of our organization to write a song, which he did. The song is being recorded and features several guest artists, adding instrumentation, etc. And, some of them are writing their own parts to the song. Unfortunately, the artist who wrote the song, already licensed it through BMI for himself. He believes because he wrote the song, he owns the song and its royalties. No agreements were put into place prior to this happening. Any advice on what should be done? The idea was for the song to raise funds for a charity. Thank you,

  • flip coin - September 17, 2021 reply

    I have read this article. I think You put a lot of effort into creating this article. I appreciate your work

  • Jeanne Green - October 2, 2021 reply

    Hi late grandfather was a composer of and after much research I have found his music documented in a library – as remaining family members would we be entitled to any royalties? Please advise.

  • Manja Dolan - October 18, 2021 reply

    What if a session singer recorded demos for songwriters (almost 60 years ago) and there was never a “work for hire” agreement. Additionally, most of the songs were not registered. The session singer is now famous in his own right. Could the session singer release the demos without a legal problem?

  • Dan - October 20, 2021 reply

    Hi, I wrote a song (originally all instruments) A singer liked it and asked if he could use the music to write lyrics too as a personal project during Covid). He stated it was just for personal use. I agreed but also reminded him that i was the original composer. He wrote lyrics to it and then had some friends record the song. They changed some of theguitar parts and added extra little bits. The structure of the song and original bass line i recorded have not changed. There was no written agreement except a few messages stating his original intentions. I also have all the sheet music copyrighted in my name. He is now releasing the song under his name. What rights do i have to the song.

  • 1050 aluminum sheet - December 6, 2021 reply

    In general, the individual who writes or records an original song owns the copyright in the musical work or sound recording.

    Melanie M. Hunter - December 11, 2021 reply

    PLEASE, I need a definite understanding of what I’m about to describe… Someone wrote a song& asked me to do the “lead vocals” on it . ( I did not co-write it .) It was recorded & then played on the radio in the U. K. & now in the U. S. ( He has it on sale on ” CD Baby”) * My image was also used, two other people are on the background vocals as well.. I was told by the writer that I wouldn’t be compensated for my vocals( re: sales) .. He had me perform the song on a “promotional level” & no $.. He said that I wouldn’t be paid unless it was from a show performance??? & that I wasn’t due any $ from radio airplay either…** Please Help!!

  • Sellve - January 18, 2022 reply

    As an artist should follow your instruction. Thanks for this post.

  • 3003 Aluminum Sheet - February 22, 2022 reply

    Excellent article. Very interesting to read. I really love to read such a nice article. Thanks! keep rocking.

  • Mike - April 20, 2022 reply

    I wrote all music and lyrics and sang on the rough demos and got them copyrighted. I then got someone to sing the songs to make them sound better and use those versions for the public to hear. Does anything change with the copyright? Do I still own the rights to the songs?

  • curator - April 22, 2022 reply

    Well you can deal with such issues concerning the lyrics which is something tangible, but when it comes to music you can’t do much..

  • Josh house - July 23, 2022 reply

    I wrote a song but do not know how to compose music. How do I find someone to compose music?

  • Etoro Utin - January 9, 2023 reply

    Thanks for this..I love it!!

  • Mike Nichols - September 4, 2023 reply

    I brought a hook and 80% of lyrics to 2 co-writers. We cannot agree on a finished work. If I wrote another version of the song can I use any and all material from my original work without the consent of the co-writers?

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