by Jeffrey and Todd Brabec
Under virtually all exclusive songwriter agreements, the music publisher has the ownership (or co-ownership) rights to all musical compositions written during the term of the agreement.

But certain songwriters, in addition to writing hit songs, also have a successful track record of writing songs for motion pictures and television series. Because film producers and television companies usually demand that they own or co-own the copyright to any composition written specifically for one of their projects where a writing fee is paid, a number of writers will try to exclude such "written on assignment" compositions from their exclusive songwriter agreements.

The rationale for this is that the exposure of such songs in films and television series will enhance the reputation of the writer and the other compositions that he or she may write.

This same concept may apply to writing on assignment specifically for video games (as opposed to licensing pre-existing songs).

The writer, if he or she has a proven track record in a certain field, may also argue that the publisher has no right to cut off a source of income that the writer has counted on for many years, since if the publisher demands ownership of such songs, the film and television companies will cease doing business with that writer.

Once again, the resolution of these issues depends on the respective bargaining power of the publisher and writer, with final settlement sometimes taking one of the following forms:

The publisher retains ownership of all compositions written during the term of the agreement with any "on assignment" song requests being considered on a case-by-case basis.

The writer is able to compose a specified number of songs directly for a film or television project during any one year of the term, provided that such activities do not take a substantial amount of time and do not interfere with his or her songwriting services.

The writer is allowed to write for such projects provided they are for a fee rather than on a "spec" (or speculation) basis and the writer retains a portion of the copyright ownership for the music publisher.

If a writer is allowed to write for such projects, the music publisher will often demand that all or a portion of the composing fee paid by the film producer or television company be paid to the publisher (especially where there are outstanding unrecouped advances to the writer) or, in the alternative, have the writer sign a letter of authorization that ensures that the film or television company will send all songwriter monies earned from the composition (soundtrack album and single mechanical royalties, print income, etc.) directly to the music publisher for distribution or recovery of advances.

Other agreements provide that the writer's publisher and the film or television company's publishing division co-administer the composition.



© 2006 Jeff Brabec, Todd Brabec

This article is based on information contained in the new, revised paperback edition of the book "Music, Money, And Success: The Insider's Guide To Making Money In The Music Industry" written by Jeffrey Brabec and Todd Brabec (Published by Schirmer Trade Books/Music Sales). www.musicandmoney.com












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