Joint authorship

Peter Oxendale is frequently consulted on issues of “joint authorship”. In order to be considered a joint author of a musical or literary work, the requirements are as follows:

  1. There must be collaboration in the creation of a new musical or literary work.
  2. The contribution from each joint author must be “significant and original”. In this sense, the word “original” means “all my own work”.
  3. The contribution from each joint author must not be separate.

In recent years, the issue of joint authorship has become something of an “elephant in the room” and some of the better-known cases are as follows:

  1. Robert John Godfrey v. Barclay James Harvest (the “Barclay James Harvest” case). This took place on the 6th February 1995 in front of the Hon. Mr Justice Blackburne. Mr. Godfrey was able to establish that he was the joint author of musical arrangements embodied in six songs but to varying degrees. However, the judge decided that he had left it too late to pursue his claims.
  2. Hadley v. Kemp (the “Spandau Ballet” case). This case involved members of a pop group (Spandau Ballet). Three members of the group (Tony Hadley, John Keeble and Steve Norman) sought to claim joint authorship in songs composed by Gary Kemp. The trial took place in front of Mr Justice Park in 1999 who said that the claim had “failed in its entirety”.
  3. Hodgens v. Beckingham (the “Bobby Valentino” case). This case involved a session musician by the name of Robert Beckingham p.k.a. Bobby Valentino who played the violin part on The Bluebells’ recording of “Young At Heart” which was a hit for The Bluebells in 1984 and, once again, in 1985 when it was featured in an advertisement for Volkswagen. The trial took place in 2002 in front of deputy judge Christopher Floyd QC. Bobby Valentino was awarded joint authorship of the music and this verdict was upheld by the Court Of Appeal.
  4. Fisher v. Brooker & Onward Music Ltd. (the “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” case). This case took place in 2006 in front of the Hon. Mr Justice Blackburne who found the organist, Matthew Fisher, to be a joint author of the musical work embodied in “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” and awarded him 40% of the copyright rather than the 50% he was seeking. He was not, however, awarded any royalties prior to 2005. This case went to the Court Of Appeal in 2007. They upheld Mr Fisher’s joint authorship claim but ruled that he had waited too long to bring his claim (some 38 years). In 2009, Mr Fisher took his claim to the House Of Lords and this is the first time the Law Lords have ruled on a music copyright dispute. They ruled unanimously in Mr Fisher’s favour and stated that there were no statutory time limits to copyright infringement claims under English law.

Peter Oxendale has been directly involved in a number of high profile joint authorship cases (including some of the above) and has acted for both the Claimant and the Defendant. He can provide advice relating to matters of joint authorship. Some of these services include:

  • A “quantitative” analysis of the contributions made to a musical or literary work by an individual or individuals.
  • A “qualitative” analysis of the contributions made to a musical or literary work by an individual or individuals.
  • Advice on whether an individual’s contribution is sufficient for that individual to be considered a “joint author” of the musical or literary work (or, indeed, both).

On a number of occasions, Peter Oxendale has been called upon by major publishers to arbitrate in joint authorship disputes. Opinions can be given as consultancy (verbal reports) or as written reports. Written reports provided by Peter Oxendale are detailed and frequently include musical transcriptions where appropriate. In some instances, audio “A/B” files will be provided.