Thursday, June 26, 2014

Can Co-Writer Reprint Lyrics in Book

Lorenz Hart
(one of our favorite lyricists)
Dear Rich: If John (lyrics) and Mark (music) create a joint-work both owning 50% of the copyright, can John write a book of poems with his lyrics to the song in the book, without getting permission from Mark. If James (record company owner) owns the master, does John need to seek permission from James to use the lyrics to the song in a book of poems? Unless there is a written agreement to the contrary, each co-owner of a joint work has the right to commercially exploit the copyright, provided that the other copyright owner gets a share of the proceeds. So, if John reprints the lyrics as a poem, he would owe 50% of the proceeds from use (assuming there is revenue) to Mark. In other words, after the joint work is created, it no longer matters who created what -- either co-owner can use either contribution.
What about James? James may own a sound recording copyright (for the master recording) but that doesn't give him any dibs over the song copyright. This circular distinguishes the two.