Songwriters, record producers, music creators and artists who don't have a prenuptial or post-nuptial agreement can lose part of their music copyrights and royalties in a divorce.
October 16, 2019
Songwriters, record producers, or music creators who are married, engaged, or considering getting married or engaged need to know the risk they face when not protecting themselves with a prenuptial or post-nuptial agreement.
What is a prenuptial or post-nuptial agreement?
In order to understand the risks involved in not having a prenup or post-nuptial for music creators, songwriters, and record producers, we have to know what a prenuptial and post-nuptial agreement is.
A prenuptial or ante-nuptial agreement is a contract between two spouses that is signed and agreed to before the marriage. A post-nuptial agreement is agreed to and signed by both spouses after the marriage but before any potential marital problems arise, or as the law refers to it, while the couple is still "in marital bliss". Prenup and post-nuptial agreements deal with, among other things, the division of the couple's property in the event of a divorce or legal separation.
Prenuptial or post-nuptial agreements that deal with the division of property address what's called marital property. Property, with a few exceptions for inherited property in most states, that is created or acquired by one or both spouses after the marriage but before an order of divorce or legal separation, is marital property. This means that in the event of a divorce each spouse has some interest in the property. This includes any intellectual property created or acquired during the marriage by one or both spouses, including copyrights in any songs or musical compositions, lyrics, and sound recordings or masters, and any current or future unearned royalties or royalty interests.
A divorce can give your spouse up to 50% of your songs or masters or other copyrights or intellectual property and royalties
Under the law, if you divorce, your spouse can be entitled to own or control up to 50% of your share of all the copyrights in the songs, compositions, lyrics, and sound recordings, or masters that you create during the marriage, including receiving up to 50% of your current or future unearned royalties from those copyrights. This is true regardless of any additional alimony or child support you or your spouse may be entitled to.
If you get divorced in one of the nine community property states in the U.S., your spouse would automatically be entitled receive 50% of your share of any copyrights in and royalties from songs, compositions, sound recordings or masters you create or acquire during the marriage. In separate or dual property states, your spouse would be entitled to an equitable but not necessarily equal split of marital property. In some separate property states, like Tennessee for example, a long term marriage creates a presumption that an equal 50% split among the spouses is equitable.
As unfortunate as it is, divorces are always a potential marital outcome. If you're a songwriter, record producer, or music creator or artist, protecting your interests and royalties in your musical creations, songs, or masters that you create during your marriage from the consequences of a divorce is important. This is where a prenup or post-nuptial agreement can protect you. If you are a songwriter interested in having a prenup or post-nuptial agreement that protects your music-related intellectual property from the consequences of a potential divorce, an entertainment or music attorney can advise and assist you.
If you want any additional information on entertainment or music law and
prenup or post-nuptial agreements, including legal assistance or advice with obtaining, negotiating, or drafting post or prenups to protect your music copyrights and intellectual property, please contact us at The Fruitful Firm anytime.
Zach Scott Gainous is an entertainment and music attorney in Nashville, and the founder and managing attorney of Nashville entertainment, music, and family law firm The Fruitful Firm. Zach regularly provides legal expertise, advice and representation to songwriters, record producers, music artists, music creators, and more.
Disclaimer: This article or post is not and should not be considered or used as a substitute for legal advice or the hiring of an attorney. You should always carefully seek out legal advice and representation from a qualified attorney to assist you with your legal matters and issues.