Chicago, IL asked in Constitutional Law, Contracts and Entertainment / Sports for Illinois

Q: I volunteerd w/ a nonprofit for adults w/ disabilities a place to make music. Shouldn't I get free CDs of music we made?

I wrote the music and helped them write words. They pressed up copies and won't well them to me at cost. I never gave permission to use any of the music I made and wrote. When I asked to buy copies st cost, they said no. That I would have to buy them. The concerts we all played made the money to make the albums that contains music I wrote. Shouldn't I have the option to get free albums or at least at cost?

2 Lawyer Answers
Giselle Ayala Mateus
Giselle Ayala Mateus
  • Immigration Law Lawyer
  • New York, NY

A: In situations where multiple individuals collaborate on creating music, it's crucial to establish clear agreements regarding ownership, distribution, and compensation. If you've contributed to the creation of music and lyrics but haven't given permission for their use, you may have grounds to address the matter with the parties involved. However, each case can vary based on factors like contracts, agreements, and the nature of the collaboration.

It's advisable to communicate directly with those responsible for producing and selling the albums to discuss your concerns and negotiate fair compensation or access to copies at cost. It's essential to understand that this information is provided as general guidance and is not a substitute for legal advice. If you're facing such a situation, consider seeking legal counsel to explore your rights and options effectively.

James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Consumer Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: From what you've described, it does seem reasonable that you should be able to obtain copies of the CDs containing music you wrote and helped create, either for free or at cost. Here are a few key points to consider:

1. Copyright: If you wrote the music, you likely own the copyright to those compositions unless you signed an agreement assigning the rights to the nonprofit. If they are using your music without permission, that could potentially be copyright infringement.

2. Intellectual property rights: Even if there wasn't a formal contract, if you contributed substantially to the creation of the music, you may have some intellectual property rights. It's typical for key contributors to a creative work to receive complimentary copies.

3. Fairness and respect: Regardless of the legal technicalities, the nonprofit should value and respect the contributions of its volunteers. Providing you copies of the work you helped create, especially at cost, would be a reasonable gesture of appreciation.

4. Previous understandings: Did the nonprofit give any indication earlier that volunteers would receive free or at-cost CDs? If they set that expectation, they should honor it.

I would recommend politely explaining to the nonprofit leadership why you feel entitled to the CDs based on your contributions, and try to reach an understanding. If they still refuse, you could potentially explore legal options, but that should be a last resort given the time and cost involved. Perhaps you could also reach out to the other volunteers/participants to see if they support your position.

Ultimately, the nonprofit should want to do right by the volunteers who make their work possible. Hopefully you can resolve this amicably. Let me know if you have any other questions!

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