What happens when multiple people write a song?
First, a little copyright law - If you compose/write a song alone, you automatically own 100% or all of the copyright for that song. In addition, there is no need to register your copyright with the U.S copyright office. The minute your work is in a fixed, tangible form, such as via a recording, that work is automatically protected under copyright law.
So, if you wrote the song alone, you own 100% of the copyright. What if you work with a cowriter, a producer, or a larger team? At that point, everything is up for grabs. All percentages are negotiable. Often co-writers will split publishing 50%-50%, or 33%-33%-34%. Sometimes a producer or audio engineer takes 10%-50% as part of their deal for working with you. It all depends on what is negotiated. However, please note that it is industry standard, that unless agreed upon otherwise, everyone is entitled to an equal share of the work. So, if you do not agree on shares, you can assume you are entitled to the same amount of ownership as any other writer.
In any case, if you decide to split the ownership not equally between all the writers, it is crucial that you get an agreement in writing. The Songtrust Team has prepared a split sheet template for you to use.
Please view the below diagram for some examples of splits. Once you've decided on splits, you can register your songs and begin collecting!
Interested in learning more? Check out our blog post, 'Art of a Manager' Discusses Splits.
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