Thursday, July 02, 2009

Royalties and trusts

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When it comes to Michael Jackson, the big intellectual property question is who owns the rights to all his royalties. According to his will, a trust has been created and all his property (real and personal) will be a part of the trust. Executors have been named for the trust and they have the ability to continue all businesses.

So, Michael Jackson as a person - through his music - has been entitled to collect royalties. It's a complex system - from his rights as a songwriter, to his rights as a copyright holder (through other companies), to his rights as a performer.

"Artist royalties" is not a traditional intellectual property type of royalty, but it is the right that an artist has to collect based upon being the performer of a song. Any time that a song is publicly performed, an artist receives a royalty payment.

Royalties are also collected by the songwriter (even if the songwriter is not the holder of the copyright) and by the copyright owner.

Certainly, spending has gone down (it was reported that Michael Jackson has spent more than $30 million a year) with his death and album sales have gone up and radio play of his songs have gone up (many radio stations did go all-Michael Jackson for a day or two after his death), there are more royalties coming posthumously. (As a sidebar, many radio stations pay ASCAP and BMI a flat royalty rate, but each song played is still tracked so that if one artist is played inordinately more than another, that artist will receive the correct amount of royalties.)


For those of us with an entrepreneurial spirit, ABC has a show starting later this summer called "Shark Tank." For those of you familiar with "Dragons' Den" that is shown on BBC America in the United States, "Shark Tank" is the American version. The premise is that an entrepreneur presents his idea to some business people who are acting as venture capitalists. The "sharks" or "dragons" critique the idea and decide if they want to invest in the business and what the terms would be.

I am a fan of "Dragons' Den" and am looking forward to the American version.


Speaking of ABC and Americanized foreign television shows, I was made aware of a lawsuit that seems to be in a holding pattern. ABC's "Wipeout" bears many similarities to a Japanese show called "Takeshi's Castle," which was turned into the overdubbed show "MXC." ("MXC" is owned jointly by the owners of "Takeshi's Castle" and an American production company.)

The similarities are such that the makers of "Takeshi's Castle" had filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against ABC and the makers of "Wipeout." There is precedent for winning an infringement claim when there are similarities to a previous work, such as a commercial having elements of James Bond movies.

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Blogger Pittsburgh Patent Attorney said...

Very informative. I just learned that the songwriter receives a royalty even if not the owner of the copyright.

8:31 PM  

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