Monday, June 3, 2013

Can We Share Songwriting Money With Non-Writers?

Dear Rich: Is it possible to fill out the copyright form for a song listing only two songwriters as the official songwriters, but then share the songwriting profits with two more (band members or mommy and daddy). That is, the CDs, sheet music, etc., will list only the two songwriters as the writers but the revenue will be divided, evenly or unevenly, between more people? Should the form be filled out with just the two writers listed and another agreement between the parties made for splitting such profits with band members? I feel that there is no need to misleadingly credit an individual just because you agree he should share in such profits. Sharing song revenue with non-songwriters is not uncommon; many bands do it. To accomplish this, list the current songwriters on the copyright application, and then enter into an agreement with writers and non-writers to share in the revenue (often structured as music publishing arrangements). A lawyer can set up the agreement or you can read how to do it in our music law book.
It’s the law. Listing the correct co-authors on the application – that is, the persons who made material contributions to the songwriting -- isn’t just a matter of fairness, it’s the law. Making false statements – if they are discovered -- may be labeled as fraud on the Copyright Office and could invalidate the registration. Of course that hasn’t prevented abuses – for example, some performers have demanded and gotten songwriting credit as a condition of performing a song.