Hypo: Joint-Authorship | jdickins | June 28, 2012

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Hypo: Joint-Authorship

Teresa Glennon and Barry McCarthy are a world-famous songwriting team, whose songs have sold hundreds of millions of copies, worldwide, since they began writing songs together in the mid 1980s. Initially, they wrote all their songs together, trading ideas and suggestions back and forth about both the lyrics and the music for each song. Starting around 2000, they fell into a pattern whereby Glennon would write the lyrics, and McCarthy the music, to create their songs. That continued until 2005; since then, each of them has been writing songs completely independently, i.e., composing the lyrics and the music without any input from the other.

When any of their songs (including the most recent ones) is published (in sheet music or book form) or released on a recording, the listing always says “By T. Glennon and B. McCarthy.” They have also continued the practice, begun when their partnership began, of designating themselves as “joint authors” for all of their songs when they register their copyrights.

Renzo Clarido is a documentary film-maker employed by YouTube. He is working on a movie about the mayoral election in New York in 1998, and he would like to use one of the Glennon-McCarthy songs – “I’ll Get You, You S.O.B.,” written (by McCarthy alone) in 2008 – as background music in the movie. He writes to both Glennon and McCarthy, requesting their permission to use the song in the film (and offering to pay each of them $250). Glennon writes back and says that she accepts those terms. McCarthy, though, doesn’t; in his letter back to Clarido, he writes: “I expressly forbid you to use the song I’ll Get You, You S.O.B., in any film, movie, motion picture, audiovisual work, or the like.”

(a) Clarido has asked for your advice. What do you tell him? Can he use the song in his film?

(b) Would your answer be different if Clarido wanted to use a different song by Glennon & McCarthy, “What’s the Use?,” written in 1988? Why (or why not)?

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July 01, 2013

Professor David Post

2012-06-27

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