Hey guys. All good questions. I will try to share info on the way the site is setup. It is not restrictive at all, but hopefully ensures that co-writers are in agreement about who owns what... Better to have these discussions before signing off rather than later on when you make some cash out of the song and argue about shares :)
As we should all be aware by now, there are two separate copyrights that apply - composition and sound recording. I'll focus on composition here as it is the topic I believe.
When you close the project, you have to set copyright shares for the songwriters (i.e. author, composer, whatever). Those shares must equal 100%. That is representative of the full 100% of the songwriting copyright.
Let's say it is an instrumental song, therefore, you would select "Musical Works" and assign 100%. If there were two composers, that's 50% each.
If it were spoken-word or a poem with no music, again, it's 100%, or 33% if there were three authors.
In the case where there is both music and lyrics, it is a little more complicated. Here, the lyrics are worth 50% and the music is worth 50%. Therefore totalling 100% of the composition copyright. I.e., you cannot have 75% of the song being music (the tune), and 25% of the song being lyrics (the words). At least, that is the way we understand it. If this is fundamentally wrong then anyone with some authoritative input on this is welcome to point us to any supporting references so that we can resolve it and make adjustments - which we are perfectly happy to do. But for the time being, that is how the division of the composition copyright works.
Another related point here might be worth mentioning, this 'share' of copyright is not the same thing as the literal question of "who did what". It is basically an assignment of ownership. Someone who didn't write the lyrics can have a copyright ownership of the lyrics.
So to the question at hand. Yes, Ryan, since you wrote all of the lyrics, and the topline melody, if you wanted to separate these two distinctively based on input, you could probably assign yourself 50% for the lyrics, and 25% for the music. And the remaining 25% going to Michiel.
Doesn't sound fair? I think this is often the case due to confusion with the sound recording part of this equation. The composition is really only the underlying chord structure, arrangement, melody, and the lyrics. Right? Where us musicians (performers.. including your vocal performance) often comes in is on the recording of the song - i.e. sound recording. Hence, all the guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, vocals, etc., create a big production sound, and it sounds like we did a lot.. but what we are actually doing is performing the writen song (simply the chords and lyrics), it doesn't change the fact that the song goes C F G C x 8 or whatever.
But back to splitting this stuff up. The norm, as you've pointed out, is, I believe, 50/50. Reason is simply fairness and the fact that it avoids arguments over how much each did exactly what of. In the end, you wrote the song together. And in fact, in you guys case, you actually agreed to this when you selected the EQUAL SHARES collaboration agreement! This agreement is the one that you just mentioned, about agreeing to how things will be split when you started the song together - so no need to write another one :)
How to assign it 50/50, you simply assigned 25% each to the music, and 25% each to the lyrics. That's kinda the point of joint ownership. It's not to say that you didn't write the lyrics (that's a credit) but the point is that you both will share equally in the actual song's copyright. And that includes the lyrics.
The only reason you might not want to do that is if you intended to retain full ownership of the lyrics, meaning that you could at any time use them with someone else in another song and Michiel would have no claim to royalties if that song hit the big time since he has no copyright or say in that. If that's not the intent, then by sharing each of these components equally, you are agreeing to jointly own the song as a whole.
Ok. All sounds a little confusing. We did actually have the 'song' option previously when selecting songwriting copyright where you didn't need to divvy up between music and lyrics. But we saw that it was being used wrongly and percentages were not adding up - I believe because again people weren't understanding the implied inclusion of lyrics in the equation. So we ended up changing it because at the end of the day, when you go to register your song with a PRO, they generally do ask about both music and lyrics, so for those who hadn't already figured it out and really thought about this with their co-writers, songwriters might actually be registering different info on their PRO song registrations.
FYI, me and Dani do it exactly like this. We both agreed a long time ago that we will share everything equally in the song as a whole. So even though I generally don't write the lyrics, I am a copyright owner in the song and she cannot reuse, change or sell them without paying me :) .. Equally, when we license an instrumental version of our song, where she did not sing and there are no lyrics.. she gets paid still. 50/50. It's just fairer, and easier to understand and manage.
Anyway, yes, I have a tendancy to say a lot on this topic. Somehow I find it a fascinating subject! But this is a really important issue and I hope there is more input on this. We want the site to work in a way that is flexible, but also has to be implemented in a way that prevents wrong assigment of shares, leading to confusion and dissagreement down the line. So anyone that has some input on this we're happy to hear your thoughts.
Thanks for raising the point, Ryan!
Originally posted by MonkeyC on Sat 21 May, 2016