When a group of musicians together create a composition or when a band creates an album, a joint work is created. A work is considered joint if it meets these conditions:
- both or all the authors intend that their contributions be merged into a single work;
- this intention exists at the time of creation of the work.
No written contract is necessary to create a joint work. Each author owns an undivided portion of the entire work. While each joint author may exploit the work without other joint authors’ permission, any profits must be shared with the other joint authors. No single author can grant exclusive rights without consent of the other authors.
For example, if Gertrude writes lyrics and Harry writes the music to a popular song, both of them own copyright in the lyrics and music. Harry can give permission for someone to reprint the lyrics even though Gertrude wrote them. Gertrude can give permission for a filmmaker to use only the song’s melody as soundtrack music even though Harry wrote the music.
It is likely, that in the absence of a contract to the contrary, performers will own copyright to sound recordings jointly with record companies.