Kroeger v. Amar II Canada Productions Inc., 2002 BCSC 1099

Key Principle:

Unless there is evidence to suggest the contrary, a musician holds all copyright interest in a musical work that he or she creates and records. This interest extends to the master recording for the musical work, and as such, no other person has the right to withhold the recording from the musician.

Summary:

The Situation:

You are a member of a rock band. Some time ago, your manager provided your band with various management services, and helped you produce a new hit album: “Curbed”, by fronting the costs for magnetic tapes and other production equipment needed to produce the recording. This was done under a written production agreement. Your band wasn’t happy with your manager’s efforts. You figured the band was getting a raw deal and the manager wasn’t living up to your expectations. You fired your manager, and didn’t pay the fees due under the production agreement. In response, your manager has kept the master recording of “Curbed”. He argues that he fronted the all the money for “Curbed”, and that therefore he is the “maker” of the recording and holds title to the tapes on which the recording is stored. You want “Curbed” back. You want to bring it to market. You say your band is the sole owner of copyright in “Curbed” as its ‘maker’, and therefore it is your sole right to have possession of “Curbed” and to market it.

The Conclusion:

Your argument is successful. The general intent of the Copyright Act is that the author of a musical work is the first owner of the copyright in the work. Just because your manager raised funds to pay for the recording of the album and made other arrangements for the production of “Curbed”, such as paying for various recording expenses, that does not mean your manager is a “maker” or copyright owner of the master recording. This is because any acts done by your manager were done in his managerial capacity as an agent for your band. The expenses he incurred were business expenses incurred on behalf of the band, for which he may expect reimbursement under the terms of your (now terminated) production agreement. The production agreement did not give your manager any copyright interest in “Curbed”. Your manager was to be paid for his services. As such, there is no evidence of any act or financial contribution by your manager that would entitle him to a copyright interest in your album. You are entitled to a return of the “Curbed” master recording.