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  1. #1

    Default Copyrighting Individual Song Parts

    I have had an ongoing problem with the principal songwriter in my band. She argues that all that goes into the composition of a song is lyrics, lyrical melody, and chords. I argue that other parts could be significant enough to warrant reception of credit both when it comes to CD liner notes as well as financial compensation (royalties). Basically, I'm a drummer who tries very hard to compose parts that are distinct and unique. Some of these parts I feel are very important contributions to the song, definitely enough to deserve some type of compositional credit, parts where when people describe the song they say something along the lines of "the one where the drums do that thing" for example.

    I realize that the issue of who wrote a song is very often undefined, which is why if you look in your CD collection you will most likely find many different models to use. I also realize that there is no legal definition as well, which is why there are so many lawsuits over this kind of thing (disgrunted ex-band members, etc.). I'm not trying to legally define it. Here's what I came up with to protect myself - please discuss the plausibility of this:

    On the songs in question, I plan to either record or notate (or both) the drum parts I have created and register them as separate compositions.

    How would the logistics of this work? I know there is something about collaborative songwriting where if 2 (or more) people agree to collaborate on a song together, they both own part of the song. In that case, would my drum compositions be considered collaborations?

    Or is it more along the lines of Billy Joel's "This Night" the Beatles' "Golden Slumbers," where an existing piece of work (Beethoven's "Pathetique" Sonata/Thomas Dekker's poem) was used and added to? And how would this work, since the previously existing part of my "composition" isn't in the public domain (like with both of the above examples)?

    Will the liner notes have to end up including something like "contains a sample/interpretation of 'Super Sweet Drum Beat #7' by destijl-atmospheres" like many hip-hop albums do?

    Please keep in mind that I'm not talking about songs where any other drummer would have sat down and played something very similar, or "rock beat 1" on a keyboard or anything like that. I'm talking about songs where I really thought hard about what to do and where the song sounds much different than before (even though the singer is still singing the same melody with the same lyrics over the same chords).

    Please discuss, and thank you in advance.

    I don't think this is an issue but I am in the state of California.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Behind a Desk

    Default Re: Copyrighting Individual Song Parts

    If the original composition - the sheet music - doesn't include annotations of the drum part, then your work is not part of that composition. It may be copyrighted by the creator.

    If your drum performance is part of a recording, the recording is also subject to copyright. You and your fellow band members should have an agreement that governs royalties.

    If you want to try to separately copyright your drum compositions, then insist upon additional royalties and additional recognition in the liner notes, you're free to try it. Your fellow band members may respond by getting a different drummer. If you surprise them, after-the-fact, with the notice that you included copyrighted material in a recording without advance notice without warning them and that you want more money as a consequence, I would expect that to happen. Moreover, they would have a case for implied license based upon your voluntarily incorporating your own work into the performance.

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