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#513624 - 06/17/07 08:17 AM Missing collaborator? What to do?  
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Linda Anthony Offline
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Linda Anthony  Offline
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I've been trying to locate a person who helped me write a lyric. He wrote a significant amount of the lyric and I feel as though we both own it 50%. My problem is, our collaboration happened online and we've never met in person so I don't know how to contact him other than via email. He is not responding and I want to go the next step in copyrights with the LOC and recording. How do I do this legally and can I without his participation? As soon as the recording is completed and I'm still not able to contact him, how can I make sure he gets royalties so that I don't get sued in the end? Thanks for any feedback! Linda


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#513636 - 06/17/07 10:16 AM Re: Missing collaborator? What to do? [Re: Linda Anthony]  
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Everett Adams Offline
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Post his name here,someone might know him.


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#513650 - 06/17/07 11:30 AM Re: Missing collaborator? What to do? [Re: Everett Adams]  
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Brian Austin Whitney Offline
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This is a good lesson on how to co-write on the web. Always know who you are writing with. Get their complete name and contact info. Talk to them via phone. Make sure you're on the same wavelength and are able to clearly communicate. Agree beforehand on how to handle these types of issues (i.e. if one of the two want to move forward with a song etc.) and have contigency plans on what to do if someone disappears.

I think Dude McLean may be a good person to ask on how to proceed Linda.

Brian


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#513673 - 06/17/07 01:07 PM Re: Missing collaborator? What to do? [Re: Brian Austin Whitney]  
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Ray E. Strode Offline
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If you can't find him the only thing you can do is finish the song and copyright it in your name only and if it ever goes anywhere he will have to make a claim at that time. The other option is just put the song away and move on to other songs.

You are trying to do the right thing and can still do it if it comes to that in the future. Keep records of your costs for future reference.


Ray E. Strode
#513680 - 06/17/07 01:39 PM Re: Missing collaborator? What to do? [Re: Ray E. Strode]  
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Mike Dunbar Offline
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Hey Linda,

An old buddy of mine, Vernon Arnold (a.k.a. Austin Church) was at a party with another struggling songwriter and they wrote a song together. A few years later, Vernon found the song on the guy's album credited only to the other songwriter. The other songwriter was Jimmy Buffett. The song was "Brand New Country Star." Vernon immediately called the label, ready for a legal battle. The person at the label told him, "Mr. Buffett said you'd probably be calling."

To make a long story short, they had put aside the money for Buffett's unknown co-writer, made everything right with him, and on all later pressings you'll find Vernon's name listed.

So this is not a problem new with the internet.

As far as what you should do? Check with an entertainment attorney. I'm sure Buffett and his label were advised by their attorney.

Brian's right about proceeding in the future. Have an agreement. Better yet, have it in an email dialogue and keep a printed copy. I'm also sure Dude would have good suggestions.

All the Best,
Mike


You've got to know your limitations. I don't know what your limitations are. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren't too many limitations, if I did it my way. -Johnny Cash

It's only music.
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#513720 - 06/17/07 03:14 PM Re: Missing collaborator? What to do? [Re: Mike Dunbar]  
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Dave Rice (D) Offline
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Dave Rice (D)  Offline
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Linda:

If I understood you correctly, you can list him/her as a co-writer in the copyright application for a lyric or other work.
I'm not sure I would suffer the time and expense involved for a lyric by itself. (It would have to be a "water-walker" of a lyric for me to expend the effort and expense in that direction.)

However, if you are bound and determined to proceed in that direction, without a prior agreement on how the "splits" are apportioned, any Copyright issued will assume 50/50. I believe the copyright apps all require the date of birth of all parties involved. If you don't know his/her d.o.b., then give it your best guess and put a question mark behind the date. That way, at least you gave it your best shot and have attempted to be fair.

All of this presumes that the lyric is really worth going through all the effort and expense involved. I hope you have knowledgeable "ears" available to provide you with good advice about that aspect. Personally, I would wait and copyright formally whenever it becomes a song. (Music and lyrics!)

Legally, I have always read that the lyric is copyrighted the instant you affix the work to paper or recording. Please remember, I'm not a lawyer or barrister and my advice is offerred as nothing more than a personal opinion.

All my best,

Dave Rice

#514615 - 06/20/07 06:41 PM Re: Missing collaborator? What to do? [Re: Dave Rice (D)]  
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Dude McLean Offline
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This happens way more than you can imagine.
As Mike said, this nothing new and has always been a problem ..

Im not a lawyer and in todays world everyone is sue happy ..So

You have a few choices that I have been witness to in the past.
You can list just yourself as the writer ...Add a letter to your own files of the other writers name and credit him/her with the percentage you think they should have.
If the song gets recorded, list your name and that writers name ,however all of the royalties will come to you. You can put that other writers share into an escrow account. If and when the other writer shows up kicking and screaming, you have their bucks in the escrow waiting for them.You can then amend the copyright.You have shown goodwill and taken care of the money end on behalf of the writer you cant find.There are other ways of doing this, of course.

If it comes to this , gee we all should have this problem that it would be a song that gets recorded.

There are other ways ,as I said ...But this post could go on and on..

A few questions...Do you know if this writer is a member of BMI or ASCAP? If they are, call the writers rep, and tell them your problem...If the writer is a member they will have the contact info. Or you can leave your contact info with them and they will contact the writer.
Do you know what part of the country the writer is in?..Look in information..you might get a number.etc.Do a google search for the name.Go to some other songwriter sites and ask.etc.

Bottom line ...if you are uncomfy with whatever way you choose to go..live with it for a while ...Many ent. lawyers would answer this for you over the phone.

What you donot want is a share of the money going nowhere..meaning a part stays with a publisher, a record company or ASCAP and BMI...It has a habit of fading away ...

Dude...

http://songconsultant.com

Last edited by Dude McLean; 06/20/07 06:44 PM.
#518025 - 07/01/07 11:49 PM Re: Missing collaborator? What to do? [Re: Dude McLean]  
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Bobbie Gallup (D) Offline
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This is an issue that has been bothering me for some time now. I have cowritten many songs with folks via the internet. Some of these folks I have met in person...some I haven't. The problem with the internet is that people seem to move and/or change services and frequently forget to let their cowriters know. Right now I am looking for new contact info for:
Chris Dasch (TX) I want to do a demo of one of our songs
John Bizzack (KY) I have publisher papers he needs to sign

Neither of these guys responds to emails anymore...so am assuming they have changed servers.

I also want to know what to do if/when a cowriter dies? What happens to their part of a song? Since my husband passed away, I have been assuming that his portion of cowritten songs passed on to me but I am not certain if that is a correct assumption. I'd appreciate any advice.

Bobbie


They'll tell you success in the music biz is all about who you know...but the truth is...it's about who knows you.

Gallup 'n Dawg Music
#518051 - 07/02/07 01:22 AM Re: Missing collaborator? What to do? [Re: Bobbie Gallup (D)]  
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Emily Sanders Offline
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Hi, Bobbie,

Nice to see you here smile Here's my thoughts on this:

The executor of a deceased person's original projects (art, writing, etc.) is not always assigned before their death; therefore, as far as I know, the surviving spouse (you) would be the recipient of such benefits and profits.

I am going through the process of getting permission from the families and executors of the two late songwriters I wrote with many years ago, because I am planning a recording project with their songs. However, I will not be able to proceed without permission from both families. In one of the writers' cases, the executor is from ASCAP.

Have you done a search on BMI and/or ASCAP for these people? Sometimes, you can get contact information from them.

I would most definately ask an entertainment lawyer about your concerns. It's a great question....As you well know, it's always important to protect your creative rights, as well as the rights of your co-writers!!

Hope to see you soon!

Emily

#518325 - 07/02/07 09:53 PM Re: Missing collaborator? What to do? [Re: Emily Sanders]  
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Graham Henderson (D) Offline
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If you are Dawg's sole benificary, his prtfolio will be yours Bobbie, and you need to notify the PRO he used of this fact.
If there are multi benificaries, and it is not stated where his songs go, the execator, should be entitled to make a decision on that matter.
Done in consultation with all benificaries i guess.
Re Chris dasch.
Bob Young did the last collab I know of with Chris so he may be able to help on that one as they were talking cut on that one last i heard.
You may be able to trace John Bizzak through the prison service, as, if i recall right, he was governor of a prison, and i would think they have a record of where he is or was.
Sadly, quite a few of the collabs I worked on did the disappearing act, but as i always worked on a me one element, them the other re words or music, I just went ahead and did a new take of whatever part they contributed to the venture, and put it out solo.
Graham

#518925 - 07/04/07 03:41 PM Re: Missing collaborator? What to do? [Re: Linda Anthony]  
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"Tampa Stan" Good (D) Offline
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"Tampa Stan" Good (D)  Offline
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Dear Linda,

You have My Sympathy on this matter...& I, also, have the Same Problem...have a fairly-marketable Demo from a Co-Writer, name's forgotten after a Decade, that put Music to a lyric titled "Don't Shower Alone" I'll soon be pitching.

The one thing, besides saving His Half on Any Proceeds the song generates, that'll "Save Me" IF it Finally Generates Income IS:

Whenever I enter into a Co-lab Agreement I ALWAYS insert the clause "We both agree to CONTACT EACH OTHER ON AN ANNUAL BASIS".

This way, if EITHER of us fails to live up to this part of the Agreement, the OTHER's in essence Legally-Free to do "Whatever" with the Marketing of the Song. Like in the Buffett "Example"..IF the Song ever GOES Somewhere Commercially, SURE, you can Make Good Financially (at a Later Date, when-contacted) and NO, you're NOT Legally-LIABLE for FURTHER Damages SINCE The OTHER Party failed to live up to THEIR Contractual Obligations.

(Gives ya a Great Excuse to exchange Christmas Cards, too...)

Enjoy the Santa "Clause"...hope it works for ya!

Big Hugs,
Stan

#519257 - 07/05/07 02:03 PM Re: Missing collaborator? What to do? [Re: ]  
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Emily Sanders Offline
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Hi, Stan,

I really like the idea of having a clause to require co-writers to stay in touch once a year. It may prevent collaborators from these types of situations in the future.

Emily

#519948 - 07/07/07 05:14 PM Re: Missing collaborator? What to do? [Re: Emily Sanders]  
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Michael Borges (D) Offline
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Hey Stan,
Great idea about Co-writers keeping in touch. It gives them a chance to evaluate progress on various songs and also keep their address & contact info up to date, etc. Also, if it's in writing, then the agreement is also legally binding.

Beyond that, I would consider adding "death" a clause. Let's say your co-writer dies just before you sign a big deal, shouldn't your co-writer's spouse or heirs recieve his/her fair share? Just another consider when dealing with these kinds of copyright issues.

Michael


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#520418 - 07/09/07 04:48 AM Re: Missing collaborator? What to do? [Re: Michael Borges (D)]  
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Emily Sanders Offline
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I wish that I had done a "death" clause with my late co-writers, as it is now difficult for me to get in touch with their executors...

Emily

#526973 - 07/30/07 10:06 PM Re: Missing collaborator? What to do? [Re: Emily Sanders]  
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Raymond de Leur Jr Offline
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When I found this thread it was great. I have co-written with other via the internet myself. I too have lost touch with many of them.

The best way I remain contactable is that I intentionally keep an email account (yahoo, aim, msn, etc) with my last name in it and check it regularly..that way if they ever move or have other issues come up they can still reach me regardless if I have moved or changed internet providers.


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#528401 - 08/05/07 12:28 AM Re: Missing collaborator? What to do? [Re: Raymond de Leur Jr]  
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Linda Anthony Offline
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I've been away for awhile and have forgotten about this thread. I appreciate all of the feedback! Very sound advice. I like the "Tampa Clause" sounds like a new action movie title! I will proceed as planned. Should this song go anywhere worthy, I will set aside 50% of any revenue produced after expenses and accurate supporting documents. Thanks again..


My Sound Click

In a time of universal deceit, speaking truth is a revolutionary act", George Orwell

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#531523 - 08/14/07 04:48 AM Re: Missing collaborator? What to do? [Re: Linda Anthony]  
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PogoDog Offline
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Originally Posted by Linda Anthony
I've been trying to locate a person who helped me write a lyric. He wrote a significant amount of the lyric and I feel as though we both own it 50%.


Some clarification please confused

From my POV Linda appears to be acting out of conscience and kindness rather than contract... or am I missing something important? For instance, if i post a lyric up for critique and "Juan Doe" graciously offers advice that significantly changes my original lyric or song. Am I 'legally', or implicitly, agreeing to a co-write split upon use of these changes? Or is "thank you" payment enough?

I've found nothing addressing this issue in the FAQ's or elsewhere and I've forgotten my Terms OF Use. So as far as JPF's concerned what constitutes a binding agreement? And how soon after joining should I, or some just as handsome, expect to hear, "You owe me..."?

Thanks,
Dog

#531596 - 08/14/07 01:27 PM Re: Missing collaborator? What to do? [Re: PogoDog]  
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Mike Dunbar Offline
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Mike Dunbar  Offline
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Hey DogsInCars (love the name and the picture),

I can't speak for Linda, but I believe she said "collaborator" and would imagine she had an agreement with the person, just that she only worked with them online.

No, someone cannot claim ownership to your song without your permission. If someone offers a suggestion and you take it, it becomes less clear, legally and I Am Not A Lawyer. My guess is that if they simply give you an idea, you can run with it, but if you use a good amount of their words, then you've accepted them as a co-writer, again IANAL. My suggestion is to only offer advice freely and clearly, and state so in your post. If you want to cowrite, contact that person and ask. If you want to use someone's advice who did not give upfront permission, contact that person and ask.

And, of course, IANAL.

All the Best,
Mike


You've got to know your limitations. I don't know what your limitations are. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren't too many limitations, if I did it my way. -Johnny Cash

It's only music.
-niteshift

Mike Dunbar Music

#531661 - 08/14/07 03:40 PM Re: Missing collaborator? What to do? [Re: Mike Dunbar]  
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Stu Offline
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A couple quick points to ad to Mr. Dunbar's sage advice:

First, keep in mind that you can't copyright an idea. You can only copyright a "work." If you freely give someone your ideas over the internet, without some agreement between you about how the ideas are going to be used (and how you're going to get paid for it), you can pretty much kiss your idea goodbye.
Ideas, procedures, principles, discoveries, and devices are all specifically excluded from copyright protection. In fact, the copyright act specifically says "In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea... concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work."
[The sort of example that is often used to explain this distinction is as follows: Suppose you invent a process for harnessing brain waves or some other idea that could revolutionize society as we know it. We all know that if you write down on paper a description of your idea, that description would be protected against copyright infringement from the moment it is written (fixed in a tangible medium). If you then publish what you have written, no one would be able to make additional copies of the paper without your permission, because you have a copyright in your work. The work is the writing that you made. However, anyone reading your published work could use still use your brain wave harnessing process without fear of copyright infringement, because the copyright law does not protect the process (your idea) itself. In fact, someone could use your idea and write their own paper about it, as long as their work described the idea in their own words and did not take any "expression" from your original paper. This is why there is a separate field of protection for ideas and inventions under patent law].
In Linda's situation, it appears that there were some writings back and forth between the collaberators, which could be shown to a Court to demonstrate the intentions of the parties. However, we don't have all the details, and this forum is not designed to comment on specific situations. Nevertheless, this points out the danger of getting involved in collaborative works without having a specific agreement in advance.
Should someone like Linda (I say "Like Linda" because Linda is obviously too honest and caring of an individual to ever let this happen) decide to cut the collaborator out of the picture and exploit the collaborative work on his/her/their own, and should the collaborator then come forward with sufficient proof of an agreement (so that it can be shown that the collaborator didn't just feely give away his/her ideas), then the law will impose what is sometimes referred to as a "constructive trust"- meaning that the person who exploited the work is considered a trustee who owes a fiduciary duty to the collaborator - and must pay over a portion of the proceeds.
As you can imagine, this can get really messy. As you can also imagine, given the free flow of ideas that has been engendered by the use of the internet to facilitate pseudononimous authors working together across state and international boundaries, we are seeing an increase in these problems.
If you ever see something on the internet that says "send us your lyrics," or "send us your songs," you should not send them anything unless you first have the copyright registration. You should also be prepared for the possibility that your really good song idea could be co-opted. Worst of all, if you see something that says "send us your song ideas," avoid it like the plague.

As to the estates questions/answers/comments above, Estate Law is going to vary from state to state, and you really need an attorney to sort this out. It's going to have a lot to do with whether there was a Last Will and Testament, as well as rules of intestate succession - and the tax ramifications can be enormous.

#533575 - 08/19/07 08:37 AM Re: Missing collaborator? What to do? [Re: Stu]  
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PogoDog Offline
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Thanks Mike and Stu.

Dog

#535088 - 08/23/07 01:47 PM Re: Missing collaborator? What to do? [Re: PogoDog]  
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Sofa King Bixby Offline
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home and loving it
Along these lines...is there a possibility for a lawsuit even if i let the publisher know that i can't reach the cowriter? the money is waiting on the cowriter, his noame is on the albulm cover, but he didn't sign a release for his part of the music? just curious.


-cheers
-steve


"sing along little hotties in those wet t-shirts" -Tricia "angel" Baker


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#535414 - 08/24/07 11:46 AM Re: Missing collaborator? What to do? [Re: Sofa King Bixby]  
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Stu Offline
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Steve-
These are complex issues, and you need an entertainment attorney to sort out the details, but the following are a few general comments in response to your questions:

1.) "is there a possibility for a lawsuit even if i let the publisher know that i can't reach the cowriter?"
THERE IS ALWAYS THE POSSIBILITY OF A LAWSUIT. THIS COUNTRY IS SUIT CRAZY. THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN DO TO PREVENT A LAWSUIT. HOWEVER, TAKING THE RIGHT STEPS TO SHOW THAT YOU ACKNOWLEDGED THE CO-WRITER'S INTERESTS WILL GO A LONG WAY TOWARD RESOLVING THE LAWSUIT IF ONE ARISES LATER.
KEEP IN MIND THAT CO-AUTHORS EACH OWN AN UNDIVIDED EQUAL INTEREST IN THE COMPOSITION (UNLESS THERE IS A WRITTEN AGREEMENT THAT ESTABLISHES A DIFFERENT PERCENTAGE OF OWNERSHIP). THIS MEANS THAT EACH CO-AUTHOR HAS THE RIGHT TO GRANT NON-EXCLUSIVE LICENSES TO EXPLOIT THE WORK (YOU DON'T NEED THE CONSENT OF THE CO-AUTHOR TO GRANT THE LICENSE UNLESS THERE IS SOME FURTHER WRITTEN AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE AUTHORS).

2.) "the money is waiting on the cowriter, his noame is on the albulm cover, but he didn't sign a release for his part of the music?"
NOT SURE WHAT YOU MEAN HERE. HE DOESN'T HAVE TO SIGN A RELEASE IF THE COMPOSITION IS BEING EXPLOITED IN A NON-EXCLUSIVE MANNER. IT'S GOOD THAT HIS NAME IS ON IT BECAUSE UNDER THE LANHAM ACT THERE IS A PROHIBITION AGAINST FALSELY REPRESENTING THE SOURCE. THERE IS CASE LAW THAT SAYS A SONGWRITING CREDIT ON AN ALBUM IS A FALSE DESIGNATION OF ORIGIN IF IT FAILS TO ATTRIBUTE AUTHORSHIP TO ALL OF THE AUTHORS (BARRING AN AGREEMENT AMONG THE AUTHORS TO DO OTHERWISE).
AS TO THE MONEY THAT IS "WAITING" CO-AUTHORS HAVE A LEGAL DUTY TO ACCOUNT TO EACH OTHER FOR EXPLOITING THE SONG. KEEP IN MIND THAT IN CERTAIN SITUATIONS, THE STATE MAY HAVE A LAW THAT REQUIRES ABANDONED FUNDS TO BE TURNED OVER TO THE STATE AFTER A CERTAIN PERIOD OF TIME. AGAIN, YOU WILL NEED AN ATTORNEY TO SORT THIS OUT FOR YOU.

HOPE THIS HELPS

#535766 - 08/25/07 01:51 PM Re: Missing collaborator? What to do? [Re: Stu]  
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Sofa King Bixby Offline
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Thanks Stu,

I guess i am going to need to put together a contact list of all my colabs. (i love to do colabs) I suppose i will eventually need a music attorney. to sort out the details, as you have mentioned.

-cheers
steve


"sing along little hotties in those wet t-shirts" -Tricia "angel" Baker


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