What Rights Do You Have As a Song Co-Writer?

song co-writer

If you are a song co-writer, you have certain rights. But so does the other song co-writer. What rights do each of you have in the co-written song? Can you make further changes to the song without the co-writer’s consent, or sign off on the use of that song in film or television? Can you record a version of that song with musicians other than the co-writer? Can you release a recording of that song on iTunes or YouTube?

As we’ll see here, the answers aren’t as simple as one might think. As an entertainment lawyer, song co-writer disputes are one of the most common issues in the music industry.

Here are the key principles of co-writing that I’ve summarized and drawn from years of experience, to make it a touch easier on you.

1)  There are always 2 copyrights in a recorded song, no matter how many Co-Writers are involved.

As we examined in detail here, there are two distinct copyrights in each piece of recorded music: one in the musical work or composition, and one in the sound recording of that composition. Within those two types of copyright, there are typically three parties that have control of the copyright: the writer, the performer, and the producer (known as the “maker” under the Copyright Act). The writer has copyright in the musical work, while the performer and producer are often granted a copyright in the sound recording. If the songwriter is also the performer on the sound recording, they are granted rights in both the musical work and the sound recording.

song co-writer

2) When More Than One Co-Writer is Involved, a Joint Work is Created.

When more than one song co-writer creates a composition, it is considered a joint work under the law. This means it is a “work prepared by two or more authors with the intention that their contributions be merged into inseparable or interdependent parts of a unitary whole.” A song acquires copyright protection when it is “fixed in any tangible medium of expression from which it can be perceived, reproduced”.

In other words, when you create lyrics or music, intending that someday they will be part of a song, your creation becomes part of a joint work when it is recorded on tape or written on a lead sheet along with someone else’s lyrics or music. Even though your individual contribution might have been separately protected under copyright law and suitable for copyright registration on its own, the song that results from the merging of the individual contributions of the songwriters is then granted copyright protection in its joint form.

song co-writer

3) Song Co-Writers each own undivided, equal interests in the whole song.

Unless you agree to some other division of ownership and income participation with your song co-writer, you will each own an equal share of the song (i.e. one-third each if three writers, one-quarter each if four, etc.). These fractional interests apply to the entire song, and separate lyrical and musical ownership rights to jointly created songs do not exist without a written agreement among the songwriters. In other words, it will be difficult in the future to separate the lyrics from the melody from the music, if you find yourself in a conflict with your song co-writer. You will both simply own half of the entire song.

4) Contributions to a joint work cannot be separated.

Without the consent of the other song co-writer involved, one writer can’t simply remove another co-writer’s contribution and get a new collaborator to replace it, because the original song co-writer will still own an equal share of the original composition, and that composition cannot be changed without that owner’s consent. The ownership share of the original collaborator may not be reduced by the addition of new writers without consent.

song co-writer

5) Each Song Co-Writer can grant non-exclusive licenses without the consent of the other co-writers.

Non-exclusive licenses are permissions for the use of a song that are not exclusively transferred to the party receiving the license. For example, most synchronization licenses for the use of a song in a motion picture or television program are nonexclusive, because the owner of the copyright usually reserves the right to license the use of the song to some other television or motion picture producer.

 6) No Song Co-Writer may assign an exclusive right to a song without the consent of the other writers.

No song co-writer can deal with the publishing rights (that is, the ownership and administration rights) of the other songwriters. It is quite common for one song co-writer to assign his/her share of general music publishing rights, giving a particular publisher the same fractional interest in the entire song that the songwriter possessed before transferring the music publishing rights. For example, if you own 50% of the composition, you can transfer that 50% to a publisher in a publishing deal, but cannot transfer any portion of the remaining 50% that belongs to the other writer.

Other exclusive transfers of rights to the entire song are also forbidden. For example, no single collaborator can grant to a print music company the exclusive right to print sheet music of the song or grant to a sub-publisher in Italy the exclusive administration rights to the Composition throughout Europe.

7) All Song Co-Writers have a legal duty to account to each other for any monies earned from any use or exploitation of the song. 

In its most basic sense, this just means each writer has to pay the others their equal share of monies received, but the “receiving” writer should also provide information about the source of the monies and a copy of any accounting statement received by that writer along with the payment.

8)  Each Song Co-Writer also has a legal duty to give credit to the other writers wherever a printed or visual credit appears for any of the writers.

This would include on album inserts, iTunes, YouTube, in film credits, etc.

Conclusion

It is crucially important to sign a Co-Writer Agreement anytime songwriting occurs with more than one writer. Film producers will drop a song from being used in their production if a clear line of ownership cannot be established. If no Co-Writing Agreement can be shown, the producer will simply move on to the next song. The same can be said about songs being considered for advertisements (Apple has ‘made’ several careers), video games, etc.

The agreement itself is quite affordable, and will open doors for you for years to come. Contact me today to discuss further, and to discuss your favourite Eagles vocal.

song co-writer

31 thoughts on “What Rights Do You Have As a Song Co-Writer?

  1. That’s a very interesting article as I’ve had a little dispute with my co/writer. He wrote the lyrics, I wrote the music. He’s saying he can use the music in any way he likes without the consent of me. He’s decided he wants to create a charity cd and collecting all the songs and collaborations in one place but he’s not letting me have any input into the performance on the CD. He’s also asking other musicians to play on the CD. From a legal point of view is he allowed to do this. I have a signed a co-writer agreement we both signed. I’m
    Just feeling like I don’t trust him as I’m not sure what he’s doing to the songs as I work abroad. I just want to be prepared. If you can help that would be great.

  2. Hi Kurt,

    My co-writer of a tune we did in 1998 has infringed on our song and my half of the copyright. She got another writer to change the melody and kept 70% of the lyrics. From everything I’ve read it’s a blatant copyright violation. I’m told two things constitute it. The original writers heard the original tune and a substance amount of the tune was copied. She refuses to answer my email. I know she’s receiving them because her new co-writer answered me and basically said screw off. (He CC: her on email) They both take credit online for the new version. I’ve had it removed everywhere but soundclick.com….they’re playing games. Said they can’t find the copyright on Library of congress site . (Sound cloud found it! I can bring it up)
    I have an artist interested in the original version. I’m in the USA. Can I get a non-exclusive contract without her consent? In the USA???? I see you’re in Canada. This artist would probably take a non exclusive contract….she’s a friend. Not sure her manager will let her but….

    I’m definitely her nightmare these days. I told her…takes a lifetime to build a reputation and 5 minutes to destroy it…..I’m writing everyone! Pisses me off because I offered to negotiate and her co-writer spit at me. She never answered.
    Regards,
    David

  3. Hi Kurt,

    If I wrote a song with a guy but he said he doesn’t want any ownership of it, do I need to get that in writing or can I just register the copyright under my name as the sole owner of the song?

  4. Hi Kurt, Very clearly explained. Thank you
    I have a question perhaps similar to that of David Dove above, but on the other side.
    A singer composes lyrics for a instrumental number a musician had already created. They jointly record that song with the lyrics and each release a copy on their respective youtube channels (no money earnt)
    Subsequently the singer wants to professionally record/release the song with different musicians on an album he is releasing with other songs/covers for sale.
    The musician and co-owner of the song wont give consent for the recording/release of the song. The singer is proposing to give credit and rights to 50% royalty. It may be that the co-composer wants to have input into the release or possibly be the musician.
    Does the singer need consent of the musician/composer in the work for which he has written lyrics?
    The singer is going to drop the song from the release as does not want any unpleasantness. However, it would be good to know the answer.

    Thank you
    Neil

  5. I have a business partner friend who is a lead singer and Co writer on a lot of albums for a famous band. Mostly European tours and he is the only American. He has not gotten paid on live performances, Co writing royalties, streaming. The other members are getting checks. This is a GEMA deal. He has not been registered with a PRO in the USA. Any advise would be appreciated. Thank you.

    • Sounds like he needs a US or German lawyer to track down some revenue that is owed to him. He should be registered with a PRO as well.

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  6. Thanks for the article Kurt, great info!

    I do have a question about joint works though.

    Concerning the case of That’s a Plenty, composed by Lew Pollack, recorded and published in 1914.
    Pollack died in 1946.
    In 1949, a recording of That’s a Plenty was made and published with lyrics written by Ray Gilbert.

    Can you speak of a joint work in this case?
    Or are the lyrics copyrighted separately from the musical composition, the composition having fallen into the public domain by now (since it’s been published before 1923), whereas the lyrics are still under copyright protection?

    Thanks a lot for clarification!

    Bram

  7. Hi Kurt. I have a situation with a co-writer. Your article has been very informative. I have not been able to collect my publishing royalties for some time now. The song continues to be re-cut and performed. There was a sub Publishing agreement in place But now there company claims it never existed.

  8. Hello Mr. Kurt Dahi, my question is about songs I’ve written and received contracts for the… I will like to know when they change some of my words, do they now become co writer’s even though they said I will own 100% of my song and the music they produced for the song? This is a letter I’d send to the president of the company! Is it written in the way it should be… By the way I will be needing a entertainment attorney in the very near future and would like to get the chance to see if you will represent me in the near future?

    Dear Mr. Ronnie James, 

    My name is Larry Perry, Sr. and I am writing in regard to my contracts I’ve received. First, I will like to give thank to Songwriter,s Music Group, for choosing my songs to record… After carefully looking them over I noticed some areas of concern…
    I understand by signing the contract I will own 100% of my song, is this correct?
    Now by Songwriter’s Music Group changing some wording to my song, wouldn’t that make Songwriter,s Music Group Co/writer’s?
    And if so what percentage will Songwriter’s Music Group own of my song’s? How will you figure out the percentage?
    Lastly, how come and why do Songwriter’s Group give $50,000 in a bonus? So it doesn’t say in the contract that Songwriter’s Group will be part owner of my song once the words has been altered!

    This is of the up most impotence to know these things before I can sign on the dotted line…

    I will like to think Songwriter,s in advance for addressing my concerns!

    Your truly,
    Larry Perry, Sr.

  9. i have a situtation where a relationship between my band and a ghost co writer has turned sour and he now says he is not giving permission for any of the songs he co wrote to be released by us – is he allowed to stop us from releasing or is the fact that he wrote songs with us knowing we would release them one day enough?

    • Hi David. Without something in writing from the outside writer, unfortunately he would indeed be able to stop you from using the compositions. Email me for further assistance and we can see about having the ghost writer sign off on something. Thanks

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  10. Hi Kurt,
    Great article!
    I’m in a situation where I have written and recorded piano tracks to go along with a few songs (consisting of vocals, guitar and piano) on someone’s upcoming album and I’m not sure whether they think I was doing it pro bono or not (should’ve probably discussed it earlier!). I’m meeting them in a couple of weeks to discuss things further and I’m wondering what the best form of copyright to get would be? Having a 50/50 split seems harsh since they wrote the song and recorded vocals and guitar but I want some sort of recognition for my writing and some financial benefit.

    Any advice would be appreciated, thanks a lot!
    Martin

    • Hi Martin. I would have to hear the song before and after your contribution, but suffice to say that you should talk with them about what % of the composition is yours, and what both sides feel is fair.

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  11. I have a song I co wrote with two other people. We wrote this song for my upcoming EP. The recorded version is done but not released. It will most likely be released within the next 2 months thru a record label. One of the co writers have asked to perform this song at his Gigs. I know he’s a co writer of the song, but will this mess up my chance to release my produced version of it thru a record label?

  12. I wrote several songs with another writer over a decade ago. We recorded and performed the songs together. Is it legal for me to post the songs for free download? The songs aren’t being sold and no monies are being made from the downloads. Completely free just so people can enjoy the songs.

  13. An ex-bandmate and I wrote and recorded several songs together. I am no longer a part of his band, but now he is using the recordings that I made and songs that I co-wrote with him (I wrote the music and he wrote the lyrics/vocals) for his “new” band with people who didn’t write or play a single note on the recordings, and now they’re trying to sell the recordings as their “new EP” and trying to get signed to an independent record label with the songs that he and I wrote and recorded together… We don’t have any kind of written agreement as far as who owns the rights and whatnot, but I own all of the master recording files as I am the one that recorded and produced all of the tracks, and all he has is the finished MP3s… What am I entitled to if his band happens to get signed and they sell the recordings of my performances, and if they play those songs live?

    Thanks!
    -Brad

    • Hi Brad

      If you haven’t given away your rights to the performances on the record via an agreement, they have no right to use your performances without your consent. Same goes with your contributions to the songwriting. So they need to reach an agreement with you if they wish to use the songs and masters.

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  14. This is a really great piece of info. How about I share a story also. I am a composer/producer of R&B and Pop compositions. I got my first break in 2002. The group I worked with was called LJ, and they are a r&b act out of Atlanta, Ga. They needed someone to help them with songs because they didn’t have any. They were college basketball players aspiring to be recording artists. There vocal talents caught the ear of a independent radio promoter who had currently worked as Vice President of Promotions at Warner Brother Records. Once they met this guy, he said he would love to hear some original material. Keep in mind now, these gentlemen were not songwriters, but I help them craft songs and we began to make songs they seem promising. Since I was already armed with a catalog of music I had written, I went into my catalog of copyrighted music and decided to see what would work with their style of music. We ended up using about 13 of my compositions. The independent promoter heard them and discovered that this was worth the investment of time and resources. He then flew me down to Atlanta to work on more material for a possible album, but at that time he still wasn’t sure what he wanted to do because to be honest he was great a promoting records, not being a record label head so he took his time about how he would execute his goal while we stayed creative in the studio. One day the independent promoter took me to a law firm named Greenburg Trauig. I met a lawyer named Vernon Slaughter. They handed me a contact. I did not sign because at the time I didn’t have a lawyer, and boy was that contract thick. The independent promoter tried to get me to sign a vague contract before I went to the law firm pretaining to production and publishing. Once again I did not sign. However, I noticed that the independent promoter was taking the songs we had without proper mixes to this lawyer. So what the independent promoter guy did was take each song we did, which at the time 13 songs, and make ten copies per song on a cd. I didn’t think anything of it, and besides I had my composition to those songs copyrighted with the Library of Congress before I even knew these guys. I asked why did he give the cds to Vernon and he said it was for the publishing procedure. As weeks went by we were finishing the post production to what would be a album by these guys, and the independent promoter decided he would start a label based on this project. He said he wanted to start a label and publishing company. Keep in mind, I haven’t signed ANYTHING still, and I still have my material copyrighted. As we finish mastering the album in Jan 2003 and I still hadn’t signed any contract whatsoever, I decided to copyright all the songs, but this time with the lyric and music, since the music was already copyrighted before hand. I put all of the songs we worked on, and I put all of our names on the copyright. Their were authorship was credited via lyrics, my authorship was credited via music, melody arrangement, and song sequence. It took us about 4 months to hammer out a deal. I must say, I was exhausted with this process, but I found it strange that I was doin this after the album was done and not before because most of the time labels do the business before writing a check to go into the studio, master, etc. Now, I got my lawyer and I am pretty excited and he presents three contracts to me: A producer agreement which would based on the terms and conditions of the album, a non-exclusive producer agreement which basically gave the power of management to the independent promoter in which he would have to shop my work to labels like Warner Brothers since he had a lot of relationships there, and a LLC operation agreement for the publishing company he said he wanted to create which would give us equal a share in the publishing revenue since it was 4 of us. I had my lawyer, Kendall Minter, make a amendment in the operating agreement that would allow me to function my own publishing company outside of this arrangement without their participation since I was already a ASCAP writer/publisher. So now that the ink has dried we were officially in business!! Fast Foward to August 2003. The independent promoter now has his label, his artist, album and producer. The album had 14 songs, I produced and composed 13 of them. Now, since he had access to small, medium, large radio markets he decided to promote 2 songs at the same time on different formats. One was released on Urban AC radio station and the other was released on Urban radio stations because of its hip-hop vibe and influence. Within one month of being released one the songs had debut at #39 on the Billboard Adult R&B Charts. However, I didn’t find this out until years later because they didn’t want me to know this for some reason. The second record was starting to take flight also with it approaching the Billboard Hot 100 to debut at #99. I was very excited and ready to begin a fruitful career being a working professional producer/songwriter/composer after 10+ years of paying dues and honing my craft. The work was finally paying off..so I thought. He kept promoting the records as each song began getting more adds at radio stations across the country, and then he released the album on physical and digital formats through digital distribution such as Itunes, CDBaby, and various others. In November of 2003, I got a call from the independent promoter and now the head of the label I just made a bunch of records for to meet him in New York for a breakfast meeting. I go to NYC (at the time I’m in New Jersey) and we sit down and we start talking about whats goin with the record and how its performing and what the next moves should be. Now, mind you at this time I didn’t know about any chart action or anything. He then told me that one of the songs was in the top 30 on the now defuncted Radio and Records Urban AC chart which was powered by MediaBase. I was super excited, and I thought we would get some major attention from bigger distribution companies like Sony or Universal. But instead he said he wanted to keep it “small” and instead he wanted me to remix every song with new music, and he would pay me $200 per track under the table without lawyers involved and I would get another $200 per track when I delivered the final product. I personally felt uneasy about this and declined because I could not understand why I needed to remix everything and do it for much less especially after my productions were proven to be effective on the charts with unknown recording artists. The meeting was over, and that was that. Months went by, and I had not heard anything from anybody. He also pulled the records off the radio one week before both records would land on Billboard Hot 100 chart. My lawyer wasn’t returning my calls, the independent promoter/label head went radio silent after our meeting, and I didn’t know what was going on with the recording artist or progress of the album for that matter. The label had a website which showcased the artist, and myself but this time my bio, my image, and my name had been scrubed off the website. In the coming weeks from that point ASCAP had start to send out monies to writers/publishers for radio performances. I got my ASCAP envelope in the mail eagerly waiting to see how much I would receive for so much significant airplay, and BAMM!! I was told I had no titles or songs for payment. Zero. I was confused and I immediately call my attorney, Kendall Minter. Before I called him, I was able to retrieve performance info on the songs that the independent promoter/label head was reluctant to give me, as a matter of fact he only shared radio charts and things like that with the recording artist and their road manager at the time. Luckily, I knew the sister to one of the group members, and she was able to confiscate charts, and radio log sheets showing detail of the spins in over 60 U.S markets and counting. I went from confused to angry. I then decided to called ASCAP, and they told me to check the database they had just created in which you can see the writers and publishers of each song, and since they were new members of ASCAP I could see what was going on with these compositions. I was shocked to find out that someone had taken my name off the writer credits and instead it said they were the composers and I wasn’t. How could that be especially if I had already written the music before these guys ever knew me..and I got the copyright to prove it. I get my attorney on the phone, and his secretary tells me he is on a call, and I tell her I need speak with him in reference to these matters because I believe its quite serious especially when you have music thats really out there, charting on major charts, and your name is taken on purpose. I fax all the info to give to him which’s shows everything from radio analysis in several markets and their respective stations to actually emails from CDBaby.com shown that the cd was sold everywhere like Japan, Arizona, Germany..EVERYWHERE!!! I can just imagine how many was sold on iTunes because I know people who personally bought it just to support me. My lawyer, Kendall Minter, then told me to stop calling him with this because he had “million dollar deals” he was working on. I was shocked especially since I had paid him over $3000 for his services and because I didn’t know my attorney would turn on me like that especially when I just told him my rights as a copyright holder and songwriter was being violated with proof. I then called the independent promoter/label head, and like I thought would happen I could never speak to him because he was always “busy”. I decided to write him a email and explain to him how disturbed I was about this matter, and it should be taken care of ASAP. He responded by saying the recording artist was no longer on the label. So it was officially over. Years went by and I called my attorney who represented me, and I asked about these matters again because he was still selling the cd on these digital platforms and my name was still removed from the writer credits but not the producer credits, and he had now put a fake phone number by name in the linear notes with my photo so nobody could get in contact with me. Kendall, the attorney, told me well thats how things go, and since he didn’t send royalty statements it was one of those things I had to just chalk up as a lost, and even to this day he still selling my work on the internet and now its on Spotify, Pandora. I feel like my music was stolen, and my lawyer help them do it. I didn’t sign any songwriter/composer agreements in connection with the publishing company we established but I noticed the recording artist did, and I also noticed also they signed a copyright assignment which states: KNOW ALL MEN BY THESE PRESENTS: FOR AND IN CONSIDERATION of the sum of One ($1.00) Dollar and other good and valuable consideration, receipts of which is hereby acknowledged, the undersigned does hereby sell, assign, transfer and aet over unto ___________, its successors and assigns, all rights, title, and interest in and to copyrights in the following musical compositions which were written by the following indicated persons.

    Question: if a song is words and music, and they clearly didn’t write the music because my copyright proves it was already done, how could they assigned the entire copyright over without my knowledge and permission if I wrote 50% of all the songs via music? Why would my lawyer not ask for a songwriter/composer agreement if I was apart of the publishing company like them, and both my lawyer and the artist and independent promoter/label head knew I had already written this music? Would there have to be a license or consent on my part as a copyright owner especially if technically the song are actually derivatives of my previous work? I smell infringement..and I think I should sue..even if it has been at least 10+ years. What do you think sir?

    Oh I ask the artist, and they said: “we copyrighted our lyrics, and thats what we got paid for. ASCAP gave us our money from our lyrics.”

    That has to be stupidest thing I have ever heard..especially knowing a song is both lyrics and music. Right? I’m thinking the label head/independent promoter got them to sign over their copyright to the lyrics.

    I know I just wrote a freakin book here. My apologies lol.

  15. This is a really great piece of info. How about I share a story also. I am a composer/producer of R&B and Pop compositions. I got my first break in 2002. The group I worked with was called LJ, and they are a r&b act out of Atlanta, Ga. They needed someone to help them with songs because they didn’t have any. They were college basketball players aspiring to be recording artists. There vocal talents caught the ear of a independent radio promoter who had currently worked as Vice President of Promotions at Warner Brother Records. Once they met this guy, he said he would live to hear some original material. Keep in mind now, these gentlemen were not songwriters, but I help them craft songs and we began to make songs they seem promising. Since I was already armed with a catalog of music I had written, I went it my catalog of copyrighted music and decided to see what would work with their style of music. We ended up using about 6 of my tunes. The independent promoter heard them and discovered that this was worth the investment of time and resources. He then flew me down to Atlanta to work on more material for a possible album, but at that time he still wasn’t sure what he wanted to do because to be honest he was great a promotioning records, not being a record label head so he took his time about how he would execute his goal. One day the independent promoter took me to a law firm named Greenburg Trauig. I met a lawyer named Vernon Slaughter. They handed me a contact. I did not sign because at the time I didn’t have a lawyer, and boy was that contract thick. The independent promoter tried to get me to sign a vague contract before I went to the law firm. Once again I did not sign. However, I noticed that the independent promoter was taking the songs we had without proper mixes to this lawyer. So what the independent promoter guy did was take each song we did, which at the time 13 songs, and make ten copies per song on a cd. I didn’t think anything of it, and besides I had my composition to those songs copyrighted with the Library of Congress before I even knew these guys. I asked why did he give the cds to Vernon and he said it was for the publishing procedure. As weeks went by we were finishing the post production to what would be a album by these guys, the independent promoter decided he would start a label based on this project. He said he wanted to start a label and publishing company. Keep in mind, I haven’t signed ANYTHING still, and I still have my material copyrighted. As we finish mastering the album in Jan 2003 and since I still hadn’t signed any contract whatsoever, I decided to copyright all the songs, but this time with the lyric and music, since the music was already copyrighted before hand. I put all of the song we worked on, and I put all of our names on the copyright. They were authorship was credited via lyrics, my authorship was credited via music, melody arrangement, and song sequence. It took us about 4 months to hammer out a deal. I must say, i was exhausted with this process, but I found it strange that I was doin this after the album was done and not before because most of the time labels do the business before writing a check to go into the studio, master, etc. Now, I got my lawyer and I excited and he presents three contracts to me: A producer agreement which would based on the terms and conditions of the album, a non-exclusive producer agreement which basically gave the power of management to the independent promoter in which he would have to shop my work to labels like Warner Brothers since he had a lot of relationships there, and a LLC operation agreement for the publishing company he said he wanted to create which would give us equal share in the publishing revenue since it was 4 of us. I had my lawyer, Kendall Minter, make a amendment in the operating agreement that would allow me to function my own publishing company outside of this arrangement without their participation since I was already a ASCAP writer/publisher. So now that the ink has dried we were officially in business!! Fast Foward to August 2003. The independent promoter now has his label, his artist, album and producer. The album had 14 songs, I produced and composed 13 of them. Now, since he had access to small, medium, land large radio markets he decided to promote 2 songs at the same time on different formats. One was released on Urban AC radio station and the other was released on Urban radio stations because of its hip-hop vibe and influence. Within one month of being released one the songs had debut at #39 on the Billboard Adult R&B Charts. However, I didn’t find this out until years later. The second record was starting to take flight also with it approaching the Billboard Hot 100 to debut at #99. I was very excited and ready to begin a fruitful career being a working professional producer/songwriter/composer after 10+ years of paying dues and honing my craft. The work was finally paying off..so I thought. He kept promoting the records as each song began getting more adds at radio stations across the country, and then he released the album on physical and digital formats through digital distribution such as Itunes, CDBaby, and various others. In November of 2003, I got a call from the independent promoter and now the head of the label I just made a bunch of records for to meet him in New York for a breakfast meeting. I go to NYC (at the time I’m in New Jersey) and we sit down and we start talking about whats goin witht the record qnd how its performing and what the next moves should be. Now, mind you at this time I didn’t know about any chart action or anything. He then told me that one of the songs was in the top 30 on the now defuncted Radio and Records Urban AC chart which was powered by MediaBase. I was super excited, and I thought we would get some major attention from bigger distribution companies like Sony or Universal. But instead he said he wanted to keep it “small” and instead he wanted me to remix every song with new music, and he would pay me $200 per track under the table without lawyers involved and i would get another $200 per track when I delivered the final product. I personally felt uneasy about this and declined because I could understand why I needed to remix everything and do it for much less especially after my productions were proven to be effective on the charts with unknown recording artists. The meeting was over, and that was that. Months went by, and I had not heard anything from anybody. My lawyer wasn’t returning my calls, the independent promoter/label head went radio silent after our meeting, and I didn’t know what was going on with the recording artist or progress of the album for that matter. The label had a website which showcased the artist, and myself but this time my bio, my image, and my name had been scrubed off the website. In the coming weeks from that point ASCAP had start to send out monies to writers/publishers for radio performances. I got my ASCAP envelope in the mail eagerly waiting to see how much I would receive for so much significant airplay, and BAMM!! I was told I had no titles or songs for payment. Zero. I was confused and I immediately call my attorney, Kendall Minter. Before I called him, I was able to retrieve performance info on the songs that the independent promoter/label head was reluctant to give me, as a matter of fact he only shared radio charts and things like that with the recording artist and their road manager at the time. Luckily, I knew the sister to one of the group members, and she was able to confiscate charts, and radio log sheets showing detail of the spins in over 60 U.S markets and counting. I went from confused to angry. I then decided to called ASCAP, and they told mento check the database they had just created in which you can see the writers and publishers of each song, and since they were new members of ASCAP I could see what was going on with these compositions. I was shocked to find out that someone had taken my name off the writer credits and instead it said they were the composers and I wasn’t. How could that be especially if I had already written the music before these ever knew me..and I got the copyright to prove it. I get my attorney on the phone, and his secretary tell me he on a call, and I tell her I need speak with him in reference to these matters because I believe its quite serious especially when you have music thats really out there, charting on major charts, and your name is taken on purpose. I fax all the info to give to him which’s shows everything from radio analysis in several markets and their respective stations to actually emails from CDBaby.com shown that the cd was sold from everywhere like Japan, Arizona, Germany..EVERYWHERE!!! I can just imagine how many was sold on iTunes because I kniw people who personally bought it just to support me. My lawyer, Kendall Minter then told me to stop calling him with this because he had “million dollar deals” he was working on. I was shocked especially since I had paid him over $3000 for his services and because I didn’t know my attorney would turn on me like that especially when I just told him my rights as a copyright holder and songwriter was being violated with proof. I then called the independent promoter/label head, and like I thought I could never speak to him because hw was always “busy”. I decided to write him a email and explain to him how disturbed I was about this matter, and it should be taken care of ASAP. He responded by saying the recording artist was no longer on the label. So ut was officially over. Years went by and I called my attorney who represented me, and I asked about these matters agsin because he was still selling the cd on these digital platforms and my name was still removed from the writer credits but not the producer credits, and he had now put a fake phone number by name in the linear notes with my photo so nobody could get in contact with me. Kendall, the attorney told me well thats hiw things go, and since he didn’t send royalty statements it was one of those things I had to just chalk up as a lost, and even to this day he still selling my work on the internet and now its on Spotify, Pandora. I feel like my music was stolen, and my lawyer help them do it. I didn’t sign any songwriter/composer agreements in connection with the publishing company we established but I noticed the recording artist did, and I also noticed also they signed a copyright assignment which states: KNOW ALL MEN BY THESE PRESENTS: FOR AND IN CONSIDERATION of the sum of One ($1.00) Dollar and other good and valuable consideration, receipts of which is hereby acknowledged, the undersigned does hereby sell, assign, transfer and aet over unto ___________, its successors and assigns, all rights, title, and interest in and to copyrights in the following musical compositions which were written by the following indicated persons.

    Question: if a song is words and music, and they clearly didn’t write the music because my copyright proves it was already done, how could they assigned the entire copyright over with my knowledge and permission if I wrote 50% of all the songs via music? Why would my lawyer not ask for a songwriter/composer agreement if I was apart of the publishing company like them, and both my lawyer and the artist and independent promoter/label head knew I had already written this music? Would there have to be a license or consent on my part as a copyright owner especially if technically the song are actually derivatives of my previous work? I smell infringement..and I think I should sue..even if it has been at least 10+ years. What do you think sir?

  16. I have a song i wrote with another writer. we have interest for placement on a major label artist. The other writer now doesn’t want the song to be released or pitched any further with no reason. That’s not fair to me. What happens in this case?

    • Get a Co-Writer Agreement in place that gives you admin rights so you can use the song without getting the other writer’s consent every time. If they don’t want to sign it, then you need to discuss this further with them as neither of you stands to gain anything from the song unless it can be used and exploited.

      Kurt Dahl
      Entertainment Lawyer

  17. I co wrote a song that which we had copywritten in 1981. I just found out he recorded and released and re-copyrighted without my name in 2015 and selling online all around the world. He also put another person co-writer. The changed the intro music, and added talk on the end. Everything just the same He had given me a few cords, and I wrote the complete song. Is this legal. I found out by accident.
    What should I do? I am with BMI.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *