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Music Royalties – ensuring the drums keep beating

Published: 12th December 2021
Area: Family

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12 Days of Christmas - Day 12: Drummers drumming

The right to receive royalties from music, as for many other types of intellectual property rights, can be inherited as part of a person’s estate.

When a musician dies, the beneficiaries of their estate either named in their will or, if they do not have one, the beneficiaries determined by the rules of intestacy, will be able to receive the royalties throughout the period of copyright. This right currently lasts 70 years from the creator’s date of death.

As copyright has such a long term it is possible that rights to receive royalties can pass down through several generations. Where the intellectual property is of significant value, this can be directed to structures such as trusts during a creator’s lifetime or on their death to ensure that it is carefully managed by appropriate trustees for the benefit of a person’s whole family. Alternatively, a person with valuable intellectual property might consider appointing a literary executor with particular expertise in the relevant area, separately to the other executors of their estate.

People tend to focus on tangible and financial possessions when making their wills and can accidentally overlook valuable intellectual property such as copyrights, trademarks, designs, Artist’s Resale Rights or patents. This intangible property is often forgotten or not clearly and fully dealt with as part of someone’s estate planning.

If you have any intellectual property of significant value, it is important to get advice on the proper drafting of your will to ensure that all facets of the piece of original work or creation will be passed in line with your wishes on your death.

For example, although an item such as a painting may hold some value, it can be the case that the greater value is the intellectual property surrounding the painting. As such, intellectual property rights should be clearly defined and included in any gift of personal items where it is the owner’s intention that they pass with the physical item itself.

There can be several different intellectual property rights associated with a particular creation which can make dealing with these assets complicated. For example, copyright in a sound recording (lasting 50 years from when the sound recording was made if unpublished or 70 years from being made public within that period) exists separately from the works and performances included in that sound recording.

Having a properly drafted will that deals with your intellectual property can not only give peace of mind to the creator but also help prevent disputes after a person’s death as to the scope of any gifts in which intellectual property exists.

Another issue that can arise in respect of intellectual property is that people often do not keep good records of their creations, especially in an era where creations are often stored or created in the digital space. Therefore it is a good idea to keep a record of all works you have created and lists of any relevant experts or contacts who your executors will need to deal with after your death in respect of the works you have created.

Focusing attention on who will inherit your royalties can ensure your family continue the beat to the sound of your drum after you have died.

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As a specialist private client solicitor Virginia begins by making sure she understands the dynamic of her clients’ lives and then advises on all aspects of wills, trusts, probate law and inheritance tax planning.

Wills & Succession

It can be difficult to envisage a time when you’re not there to provide for your family. However, we are here to guide and support you with preparing a will so your wealth is protected for your loved ones into the future.

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