There are several creatives involved in the creation and production of a music video; from the cinematographer/ video director, to the artiste, to the record label, and so on. The question is, who then owns the copyright to the end product of the work?
But first, what does Copyright mean?
Copyright is a legal term describing ownership of control of the rights to the use and distribution of certain works of creative expression, such as books, music, movies. It is a legal and exclusive right to copy, or permit to be copied, some specific work of art. Copyright is an intellectual property right which like tangible property, may be sold, assigned, licensed or inherited by others.
Section 1(1) of the Copyright Act provides that the following shall be eligible for protection:
· Literary works,
· Musical works,
· Artistic works,
· Cinematographic works,
· Sound recordings,
Back to the question- who owns the copyright to a music video?
Without an express assignment of copyright in the video, the cinematographer/ video director owns the copyright in the music video. The cinematographer/ video director would ordinarily have the copyright to both the raw footage and the modified version of the video. This is because a person who puts the work in original and tangible form owns the copyright. However, where, by contract, the video director assigns his copyright to another party or where his services are acknowledged to be ‘work for hire’, the copyright in the music video, shall be transferred to such other party.
It is also pertinent to state that all parties involved in a music video each have protectable interests in the elements of the music video in one form or the other. For instance, the artiste (or the record label- depending on the provisions of the recording agreement signed) owns the copyright in the sound recording and would be required to issue a master use license to use the sound recording in the music video, including featured artistes. The composer of the song has the copyright in the musical composition and will also be required to issue a synchronization license for the use of the composition in a music video.
To avoid a protracted legal dispute, before engaging a video director to direct your music video, creatives should approach seasoned entertainment lawyers to draw up a contract to spell out the parties’ respective rights in the work.
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