Those who remember Duran Duran might be interested to hear how they entered into music publishing contracts in the early 1980s transferring the copyright in works created by its members. Many will remember songs such as ‘Girls on Film’, ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’ etc, the copyright of which, along with many others, vested in the publisher.
Representatives of Duran Duran tried to rely on a US statute claiming that the transfer of copyright was subject to a right to terminate. Notices were served on the publisher to terminate the transfer.
It came before an English court who rejected this argument. The court concluded that the members of Duran Duran acted in breach of the agreements by serving the notices of termination.
The case was complicated and I will not go into detail as the arguments centred around the use of US Law in relation to an agreement governed by English Law. It might be of interest to legal practitioners interested in the interaction between domestic and foreign law but probably not to the readers of this blog.
A key message for me arising out of this case is that parties to contracts should try to understand the implications of the content of the documents they sign. I do not know what was in the mind of the members of the band when they entered into the agreements but they clearly had reason to regret what they signed. It may just have been that it was in their early days before their success and signing anything was considered a success! In other words, their bargaining power was limited or even non-existent.
It is worth remembering that a provision in a contract may seem reasonable today but may not be so reasonable in 5, 10, 20 etc years’ time.
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