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Old 01-23-2013, 12:34 AM   #1
artwrangler
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Songwriter loses millions

I'm trying to develop a plot wherein a songwriter has written a song for a popstar who dies without giving credit for the writing thus the songwriter faces losing all his royalties. Possible?
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Old 01-23-2013, 12:38 AM   #2
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How'd the popstar manage not to credit the lyricist in the first place while still giving him royalties? It'd be hard to do.

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Old 01-23-2013, 12:43 AM   #3
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you tube phenom

uses writer's song, becomes instant hit online, dies while recording
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Old 01-23-2013, 12:47 AM   #4
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In the U.S. a work is legally copyrighted when it is written. If the writer can show that he wrote it, then he owns it. The legal action over it might be interesting.
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Old 01-23-2013, 01:30 AM   #5
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Remember Melanie, of "Candles in the Rain" and "Brand New Pair of Rollerskates"? She wrote her own material (mostly) but without realizing she was messing up, trusted her husband-manager to act in her best interests. When he needed to raise cash for tours, houses, whatever, he sold the rights to something she didn't seem to be using, until she apparently does not own the rights (and therefore receives no royalties) to anything. When her music is used for TV ads, somebody's making serious bucks, but it's not her.

I saw this in a play written for her and starring her. It wasn't a terribly good play, because I saw the ending--that husband who adores you is an idiot and shouldn't be managing anything!--coming.

Might you be able to set up a similar situation?

Maryn, who likes theater
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Old 01-23-2013, 01:48 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maryn View Post
Remember Melanie, of "Candles in the Rain" and "Brand New Pair of Rollerskates"? She wrote her own material (mostly) but without realizing she was messing up, trusted her husband-manager to act in her best interests. When he needed to raise cash for tours, houses, whatever, he sold the rights to something she didn't seem to be using, until she apparently does not own the rights (and therefore receives no royalties) to anything. When her music is used for TV ads, somebody's making serious bucks, but it's not her.
Maryn, who likes theater
There's a huge number of songwriters who have signed away their royalties and later regret it. Sometimes it's to support a drug habit; other times it's because a particular song doesn't seem to be very popular (but later becomes a hit).
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Old 01-23-2013, 05:01 AM   #7
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Songwriter enters song in a competition without noticing that the terms and conditions require surrender of copyright. Songwriter posts song on internet site, ditto. 'Orphan works' legislation is brought in enabling performer to use lyrics without bothering to find out who they belong to.
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Old 01-23-2013, 03:11 PM   #8
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Copyright has to be registered in order to collect royalties - otherwise the collection agencies - who monitor radio plays, sync usage (music played on television or film), internet streams, etc. - don't know who to pay. So if the songwriter's name hasn't been registered against the song, then they won't get any money.

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Originally Posted by King Neptune View Post
In the U.S. a work is legally copyrighted when it is written. If the writer can show that he wrote it, then he owns it. The legal action over it might be interesting.
^ The songwriter has their statutory right automatically, but in order to get paid for it you pretty much have to register.

It is the responsibility of the songwriter to register their claim, not the performer - the complication comes where there are multiple songwriters involved (particularly when producers get credits, sometimes having only tweaked one or two minor things). So there is room for confusion here.

There are different collection agencies for different areas - PRS and MCPS are the main ones for the UK (MCPS handles sync mostly, and PRS everything else). I don't know who services the US market, but if you find out who they are their registration processes and guidelines should be freely available so you can find an appropriate loophole.

ETA: I hope "millions" is an exaggeration! Even huge number one hits don't earn that much for the average songwriter (esp. given how little you have to sell for a number one these days). The ones that really earn millions are the ones that are popular for years and years and years - the ones that people choose for weddings and funerals etc.

It's worth remembering that things like Youtube and Spotify pay an insultingly low royalty per stream - it's something like £0.00076p per play, and doesn't get paid until after a few hundred thousand plays or something. Bandcamp is a little better - a friend of mine had 176 plays last year and earned 47p, which works out at 0.0027p per play. MEGABUCKS!
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Last edited by onesecondglance; 01-23-2013 at 03:20 PM. Reason: Royalties added
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Old 01-25-2013, 12:53 AM   #9
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artwrangler-you're in dark and confusing territory here. As a former musician, I can tell you that there are a number of ways for songwriters, musicians, and artists to get ripped off. What you want to do a little research on is publishing. Many songwriters give away their publishing rights to record companies, agent, and others, and end up losing millions. Look into ASCAP and BMI. They're the two largest publishing companies that I remember. Though it has been awhile.
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