For a long time I’ve had an interest in the value accorded to lyrics and to lyricists. As part of my investigations, I have done some work on joint- and co-authorship rules. Different countries have different policies regarding the coming together of words and music in the form of a song. Some regard lyrics and composition as forming an act of joint authorship, while others consider them to be separate. The UK has changed from the latter to the former. In 2013 an amendment was made to the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, recognising works of co-authorship.
These decisions can matter. Co-authorship has meant that the term of copyright for lyrics or music has been lengthened for some songs. Joint authorship can safeguard a lyricist’s share of copyright when an instrumental or foreign language version is made of their song.
On Wednesday I gave a talk about this subject at Birkbeck, contributing to a workshop on Copyright and Business Models in Music Publishing. It was a good event, attended by people from the industry alongside academics. One of my conclusions was that the UK’s new co-authorship rules have had little effect on the practices of contemporary songwriters, but that this is interesting in itself, as it is evidence of the fact that artists can find ways to circumvent copyright law. In summary, I stated that ‘music copyright is odd’. Stephanie Dales, who was representing the Intellectual Property Office at the event, picked up on this in her own talk. She said that she would alter one word, though. Her conclusion from working in the field of IP law is that all copyright is odd.
You can access my paper here.