When was the last time you watch the news and heard about breaches of legal contracts? The news item was quite likely from the music industry. The music industry is still notorious for offering contracts to young hopeful musicians, knowing they’re too inexperienced and too ambitious to get a legal expert to review the contract. Musicians often sign contracts and their professional life away without thinking twice. So they become enslaved by a legal contract.
Do you always understand the legalities of what’s written in small print? There are repercussions when signing a contract. Even if you think you understand what’s in the small print, you need to get a solicitor to review the contract before you sign it. A legal expert who’s more knowledgable than you are in the area of business law, because you’re entering a monopoly game with your eyes blind folded. When it comes to musicians, we know that they’re artists, not entrepreneurs. Their focus is on their work getting recognised, and fame and fortune. But there are lessons that can be learnt by the mistakes musicians such as George Michael and Prince made when they started their careers.
Duran Duran were in their late teens when they signed their contract with a record label. What they didn’t understand in the small print, is that they were agreeing to give up their work’s ownership rights. The record label were the legal owners of their work for at least 35 years. Keyboard player and founder of the band Nick Rhodes said, “We signed a publishing agreement as unsuspecting teenagers, over three decades ago, when just starting out and when we knew no better.”
Many musicians can revoke the contract clauses in relation to copyrights after 35 years but in Duran Duran’s case, things got complicated in the US. The band thought they had the inalienable right to claim back their copyrights. However, the judge decided to rule against Duran Duran because English contractual law barred them from ending their copyrights contract. In simple terms, Duran Duran’s hits like Planet Earth, Girls on Film, Rio, Hungry Like the Wolf, A View to a Kill, The Reflex and many other world wide hits, are by law, not theirs. They belong to the record label who can do with those songs whatever they see fit. Duran Duran’s profits and copyrights are at he mercy of a contract signed on a reflex rather than on the advice of a legal expert.
Never underestimated the importance of consulting with a lawyer. Once you sign a contract, it is very difficult, very complicated and sometimes impossible to alter or terminate it. You might end up with the costs of a lawsuit that will, not only end your business but also leave you bankrupt. The costs incurred by signing a contract on a reflex, without the advice of a legal expert, far outweigh the costs of a contract review. So before you sign a contract, contact a lawyer for an initial free consultation and once you are happy and confident that we can help you, send your contract to be reviewed by a legal expert in our team. The small print will be scrutinised and advice will be provided so that the wording in the contract works in your favour. SG
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