Thursday, August 23, 2012

Read Those Old Contracts

I had a long conversation with a friend/client yesterday.  She mentioned that she had been reviewing some of her old publishing contracts and discovered that she was entitled to a reversion of some of the songs in her catalogs.  It is not unusual for songwriters, especially those who have been at this for awhile and have had multiple publishing deals to find out that there are elements of their contracts that they might not remember.

 Reversion clauses in contracts can be tricky because they are sometimes limited in terms of the amount of time the writer has to notify the publisher to exercise the reversion.

I can think of other types of reversions; for example some recording contracts may feature a reversion of masters and  all master license agreements essentially function the same way.  Again, the trick in all of these instances is that the artist has to take some affirmative action to get their materials back.

There are other dates to keep in mind. Old management contracts may contain sunset clauses-you don’t want to be paying commissions when it’s no longer required. Of course, all contracts have limitation periods after which one can no longer object to a statement or accounting.

Finally, as I have discussed before, with the coming onslaught of statutory terminations under the Copyright Act, keeping up with dates is going to be of more importance than ever before.

As a lawyer, I try to keep up with these important dates for my clients but it’s not always possible, especially when a client has changed attorneys, moved, etc.  Therefore, it is important for all artists to undertake this process-of going back through their old contracts.  You never know what you may discover.

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