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Passing along song copyrights with an estate plan

| Sep 14, 2019 | Estate Planning |

If you write and perform music, you have unique financial assets. If you are a full-time songwriter, you receive money from your songs’ royalties. The copyrights you own for your songs ensure that you are paid for your music. When you plan your estate, you will want to know how to leave these rights to your children.

Estate planning can be a complex problem for anyone with high financial assets. But with songwriters, planning includes passing along the financial rights to their music. There are important factors to consider when planning how to pass your copyrights to your family.

On behalf of Russ Cook & Associates, PC posted in Estate Planning on Saturday, September 14, 2019.

Passing on your copyrights

If you write and perform music, you have unique financial assets. If you are a full-time songwriter, you receive money from your songs’ royalties. The copyrights you own for your songs ensure that you are paid for your music. When you plan your estate, you will want to know how to leave these rights to your children.

Estate planning can be a complex problem for anyone with high financial assets. But with songwriters, planning includes passing along the financial rights to their music. There are important factors to consider when planning how to pass your copyrights to your family.

Passing on your copyrights

As a songwriter, your songs are your financial assets. By owning the copyrights, you can collect income through royalties and licensing. When planning for your estate, the law allows you to pass on your copyrights to your children. But there are certain rules that apply to copyright law that you will want to be aware of.

Length of the copyright

For any song copyrighted in 1978 or later, the law states that the song will stay under copyright for 70 years after your death. You hold the copyright for your entire life, and then can pass it along to those you choose.

But if you copyrighted the song before 1978, it has more complex copyright term and renewal lengths.

Knowing how long your copyright will last can give you an understanding of its value to your children.

Termination rights

Termination rights are the rights of you or your heirs to reclaim a copyright. If you transferred all or part of a copyright to someone else, you or your heirs can reclaim the rights so long as proper notice is given to the party to whom such rights had been transferred within the statutory window.

The notice window is very specific and varies with the initial date of publication, so it is important that you and your heirs understand how the process works.

While termination rights apply to copyrights transferred to entities like publishing companies and record companies, they do not apply to copyrights transferred to your heirs by will or trust at your death.

Depending on your situation, you may only want one of your children to have your copyrights. If you decide to transfer the rights before you die, then your other children have termination rights after you die.

But if you include the transfer in your will, the law removes the termination rights of your surviving family members. The person you choose will have official ownership. This can be an important consideration when deciding how to pass along your assets.

Copyrights can be a complex part of your estate planning. You should always consult a lawyer to make sure that your estate plan is the most beneficial for you and your heirs.