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How to Retain Ownership of Your Music in Canada

Co-Written and Researched by Tyler Anthony

If you’re researching the music industry, you’ve probably stumbled upon works for hire agreements, which can help you retain ownership over artistic works when you hire contractors.

In a work for hire agreement, the hiring artist becomes the legal author and the contractor has no legal right to any of the work; the contractor’s name won’t even make it to the copyright registration form.

Canadian musicians don’t have the luxury of using works for hire agreements, which are creatures of the American copyright regime.

In this article, we discuss the equivalent intellectual property rules in Canada, then explain how to retain ownership of your music when you work with contractors.

Intellectual Property Law in Canada

To avoid having to share ownership rights, Canadian artists should clearly describe the intellectual property situation in their employment or contractor agreements.

Generally speaking, Canadian employers are deemed to own copyrights to any work created by their employees. On the other hand, independent contractors are deemed to own any work that they create, but this right can be overridden by a written contract.

Contract Language for Canadian Musicians

In Canada, when an artist and a contractor create a song, beat, or instrumental composition together, both artists share ownership over the song.

Joint ownership often creates challenges when artists start looking for record deals or try registering their work with a Performing Rights Organization like SOCAN.

In Canada, you can include a number of items into your contractor or employment agreements to prevent ownership problems over your musical works. Your agreements should include, at minimum:

  • Assignment of all intellectual property generated by the employee or contractor during their tenure of employment to the hiring artist.
  • Waiver of all moral rights by the employee or contractor.
  • Surety that their portion of the song does not belong to someone else.
  • The contractor’s commitment to register, maintain, protect, and enforce intellectual property protection as required by the artist.
  • If the contractor only creates a portion of the song like a drum fill or guitar riff, make sure the contractor isn’t also making personal use of that portion of the song.
  • If the contractor created parts of the song before the working arrangement, ensure the contractor retains ownership to those parts, but not the remainder of the song.

To best protect your intellectual property as a musician, we recommend consulting an experienced entertainment lawyer.

Corporate and Business Lawyers -
Written by:

Claudius is an experienced commercial lawyer who specializes in acquisitions, financing, and securities law in relation to corporate commercial law.


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