Collaboration Agreements: How to Avoid the “Joint Work” Rules, and Why It’s Almost Always Better to Have a Written Agreement

You’re in a studio together with two other people and a piano. One of you, by way of singing, presents a chorus – melody and lyrics – to the other two. Another one of you, sitting at a piano, fiddles around on the piano and eventually devises a chord progression for it. Yet another one of you presents a series of extensive lyrics, which end up becoming the verses. Within no time, the three of you have co-written a song. What are each person’s rights?

Any time that you create a copyrightable work with someone else – whether it’s co-writing a song, a play, or a treatment for a television series – a collaboration agreement should almost always be drafted and signed.

Collaboration agreements are agreements among co-authors, or co-creators, regarding several important points relating to the co-authors:

(1) Ownership. Who owns the co-authored work, and in what proportion? In other words, who owns the such that they can, among other things, license the work to others, or prepare derivative works based on the original co-authored work? If the of the co-authored work is registered, this will affect how it is registered.

(2) Right/Permission to Exploit. Who can exploit (e.g., sell or distribute) the co-authored work? For example, if the co-authored work is a song, can/will all the songwriters list and sell the song on Spotify, or can/will only one of them? Or, will a third party be allowed do this on behalf of songwriters?

(3) Royalties. What percentage of royalties is each co-author entitled to when the work is sold or licensed? This is very often, but not always, congruent to proportion. (In songwriting, for example, traditionally, a document is drafted that addresses this for the songwriters, known as a “split sheet.”) Additionally, if there were expenses in creating the work which one of the co-authors paid, a recoupment of the expenses to that co-author can be addressed. (For example, if one of the songwriters in the above example paid $100 for the studio time for all three songwriters, then perhaps that songwriter would be paid back his or her $100 first, from any exploitation or money made, before any royalties are split.) Further, how often will royalties be paid (e.g., quarterly, bi-annually)? In what form will payment be sent? Will the payment include a written statement? All of this can be addressed and specifically clarified in a collaboration agreement.

(4) Credit. How will each co-author be credited (or perhaps not credited) on distributions of the work? (One example of when this is particularly important is when a book is co-authored by a ghostwriter.)

(5) Final Approval. If the collaboration agreement is being entered into prior to the creation of the work (this is often the case with larger-budget works, i.e., television shows, films, and budgeted music albums), the agreement can address which of the co-authors has final approval of the work (i.e., which of the raw footage, or “takes,” shall constitute the final version of the work).

First of all, this happens all the time. Co-authors often jointly create works without a written agreement. In the depiction presented above, unless they are professional songwriters, it is not typically the first thing on the minds of each of the three songwriters in the studio that they should have a collaboration agreement (and even less commonly that all have the same thoughts regarding the terms of such an agreement, particularly as the work is being created)!

Unless and until you have a collaboration agreement, so long as the co-authors intended their contributions to be merged into a single work in creating the work, the work is considered a “joint work” – and thus, the “joint work” rules apply.

Under the United States Act, a “joint work” is defined as “a work prepared by two or more authors with the intention that their contributions be merged into inseparable or interdependent parts of a unitary whole.”

Related Articles

Tips to prepare for your first consultation Immigration LAW

Tips to prepare for your first consultation Immigration LAW This is part 2 of a 3-part series about seeking legal immigration advice. This post will...

Steps to becoming a real estate lawyer

Steps to becoming a real estate lawyer Although a career in real estate law may seem exciting and lucrative, there are many steps to be...

8 Tips to Find a Reliable UK Immigration Lawyer

8 Tips to Find a Reliable UK Immigration Lawyer It can be difficult to find a trustworthy UK immigration lawyer. These are our top tips...

Reddit Legal Advice: 3 Tips for Evaluating Online Legal Advice

Reddit Legal Advice: 3 Tips for Evaluating Online Legal Advice Although it's possible to find the exact answer to your legal questions on the internet,...

Truck Accident Lawyers

Truck accidents are one of the most devastating events that happen to people, and when you're involved in one, you need the best legal...

What is Legal Information?

What is Legal Information? Any person who is familiar with the law can give legal information. This is different from legal advice. It's simply a...

High Conflict Divorce & Family Law

High Conflict Divorce & Family Law Alberta's legal system and judicial system have made significant progress in encouraging parties and their families to choose Alternative...

Here are some tips to help you choose the best criminal defense lawyer

If you are arrested or accused of a crime, hiring a criminal federal defense lawyer is the best decision you can make. You might...

A Certified Intimacy Coach and Educator offers advice on how to get your partner to sex after divorce

A Certified Intimacy Coach and Educator offers advice on how to get your partner to sex after divorce Some people are eager to get back...

Follow Us


New Personal Bankruptcy Laws and Regulations – New Difficulties

  The Majority of Us Have heard concerning the brand bankruptcy Legislation. These brand new...

International Environmental Law and Industrial Ecology

If sustainable development is ever to be achieved, the course of industrial development must...

Immigration Law – Laying The Conditions For Settlement

All applications for immigration to a particular country should be in accordance with the...

Real Estate Law 101

Real Estate 101: The Statute of Frauds is a really old law that originated...

Armless chairs allow you to squeeze more

Armless chairs allow you to squeeze more seating into your decor The most versatile of...

3 Factors Why a Proposed Merger or Acquisition Might Fall Short

Getting or merging with another Business can Create substantial small business opportunities in contrast...

Subscribe ⇘

error: Content is protected !!