Do You Own The Copyright of your CD Cover ?



Who owns the copyright in your CD cover?

22 April 2013

Written by Jani Cronje – Senior Associate at Adams & Adams

The fact that the CD cover of a young artist may feature, for example, a photograph of him strumming away at his beloved guitar, gazing into the distance, does not necessarily mean that that the bright eyed artist owns the copyright in the CD cover.

If the bright-eyed artist was responsible for the composition of the photograph, he may own the copyright in the photographic work.  If the artist’s manager, however, delivered some input on the positioning of the artist with his guitar, the manager may own the copyright in the photograph.  That being said, the issue of ownership of copyright in the CD cover, does not end here.

It is unlikely that a CD cover will consist solely of a photograph of the bright eyed artist.  Some fanciful writing, the artist’s and album name would probably feature on the cover.  And so, other aspects of the CD cover would also be protected by copyright and different rules of ownership would apply to each aspect.

Furthermore, there are certain exceptions to ownership. If the bright eyed artist commissioned and paid the photographer to take his photograph, he would own the copyright in the photograph.  However, in most instances, the artist’s record label would have commissioned the taking of the photograph and would, as a result, own the copyright vesting in the photograph.

It is clear from the above that, in respect of a CD cover, more than one aspect may be protected by copyright and is possible that different people will own the copyright.

It is advisable that one person or entity (like a record label) owns all the relevant copyright in respect of a CD cover, to avoid any uncertainty.  In this regard, the copyright in the relevant works should be assigned, in writing, to one person or entity.  An entertainment lawyer should be consulted to ensure that all the possible works are identified and correctly assigned to the relevant person.


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Issued on behalf of Adams & Adams by Megan Larter, Crayon Public Relations, 083 605 8859 or for more information – Jani Cronjé, Senior Associate – Adams & Adams, 012 432 6000

WHISNews21: Wow the world is just getting way too complicated, where will it all end?

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