Legal Question in Intellectual Property in Michigan

Musical Copyrights

I have co-written a song with someone,we did not copyright this song.Since then i have removed all contributions the other party offered to this song. I have now replaced all melodys,words and arrangements with my own.I now have the copyrights to this song.Are there any legal claims the other party may have to this song? Thank You very much,

Asked on 4/23/98, 2:31 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Thomas Workman Law Offices of Thomas Workman

Copyright is automatic, when written down

Depending on when you wrote the song, and when you wrote it down on paper, you and your co-author have a joint copyright in the original song. You did not have to do anything to obtain the copyright, it was likely automatic (I say likely, because I do not know when you wrote the song, and the law has changed over the years).

If the two of you have a copyright on the original song, and you prepare a modified version, it is likely that the modified version is a derivative work. You need the advice of a copyright attorney in your area. You need to be able to show them the original song and the modified song, and you need to have the dates when the original and modified song were written. You say that you now have the copyrights to the second song. By this I assume you mean that you have registered the song with the copyright office. This may or may not be a problem. Did you tell the copyright office that this was a derivative work of an earlier song?? The copyright application was submitted as truthful under the penalties of perjury. You probably won't go to jail, but you could lose your copyright.

A copyright application looks like an easy form to complete, but if you don't know what the terms mean, you could end up with no protection at all, and worse yet, someone else could end up with your song. I think you may have a mess on your hands. Get professional help soon, if you have serious ambitions with your song.

This message is provided to assist you in structuring your thoughts when you speak with an attorney about your situation. I am not your attorney, and you are not my client, so this is not legal advice. Legal advice can only be given after a careful interview of the client by the attorney, and I have not had the opportunity to understand the significant issues that I must understand to render legal advice. You should contact an attorney in your state to discuss your situation. That attorney can give you the advice that your situation deserves, after carefully considering the issues that are legally significant in your situation.

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Answered on 5/14/98, 12:20 pm

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