Whenever two people sit down to write a song together, they create a "joint work" and both of the writers own the song. Although each person may create a distinct part (such as the lyrics or the music), each writer has an interest in the entire work. In other words, a situation where there are different contributions to just one song is analogous to having the co-writers pouring small glasses of water into one large glass; it is virtually impossible separate the parts.
For example, if A writes only the music and B writes only the lyrics, B still owns half of the music and lyrics, as does A. When there is a joint work, either of the writers can deal nonexclusively with the entire song, subject to the obligation to pay the other writer(s) his/her share of the net profits. Therefore, it is advisable that the writers enter into a collaboration agreement which sets forth how the profits should be split if it is intended that the split be anything which deviates from a 50/50 ratio. Fortunately, a collaboration agreement can be quite simple and need only include a few major points:
First, the title of the song collaborated on must be listed in the agreement.
Second, the writers must agree to divide any and all net profits received from the sale of the song. To do this, next to the composer's name, there needs to be a percentage share he/she is entitled to. It should be specified whether the composer contributed music and/or lyrics.
Third, the writers must agree that if expenses are incurred for the preparation or presentation of the song, each of the writers shall be responsible for a percentage of the expenses. The percentage is usually in the same proportion as would apply to the net profits.
Fourth, it should be agreed that expenses shall only be incurred upon all parties' consent.
Fifth, the writers should agree that at any time before the song is placed with a publisher, the writer may withdraw his/her collaborative contribution freely, provided that he/she shall have no claim to, or rights in, any subsequent collaboration on that particular song.
Sixth, the writers should agree that the collaboration agreement only applies to the song listed, and no other.
Seven, the date, signatures, addresses and social security numbers of the writers should be included at the end of the agreement.
So that there is no confusion as to rights and profit splits, when two or more persons write a song together, a simple agreement including the above will make life much easier if and when the song makes money.Copyright 1998, Ben McLane
11135 Weddington Street, Suite #424
North Hollywood, CA 91601
Telephone: 818.587.6801 Fax: 818.587.6802