By Adewola Asaolu
Some weeks back on Netflix’s Instagram page, it was announced that Homecoming was due to release on April 17th, and it left people speculating what it could be; some guessed that it could be linked to the Queen of Pop’s 2018 Coachella performance, others thought it had to do with Spiderman. However, it concerns the former. This article will focus on the Intellectual Property Assets in the project.
The copyright protects the artistic or literary expression of a creative work of a person, in this case, an artiste. It empowers the artiste to economically benefit from his/her work which must be original, fixed and on which sufficient effort has been expended. Copyright gives exclusive rights to the artiste over such work to the exemption of others. Nobody has the right to reproduce the song without the prior license of the artiste. This is also referred to as Mechanical Licensing. Beyoncé has the exclusive right over the songs, together with every other artiste that contributed to the album.
Section 10(4) of the Nigeria’s Copyright Act provides thus: “in the case of a cinematography film or sound recording, the author shall be obliged to conclude prior to the making of the work, contracts with all those whose works are to be used in the making of the work“.
The contracts referred to in that provision of the law include Spleet sheet and Cue sheet. They are explained in the subsequent paragraphs.
a.) Split Sheet: This is a document that stipulates the proportion of royalty due to the people that took part in the production of a song, from the producer to the songwriter to the artiste. Simply put, it is a short document that details which songwriter owns what percentage of a song. This means that the percentage of one of them might be more than the other. In the US, in the absence of a written agreement, each co-writer automatically owns an equal share in a song. The importance of a split sheet is to make co-writers of a song to agree in each’s ownership. It is written down in white and black
Now, to the Homecoming Album – it has 37 original tracks, and 3 others from other artistes which were modified, totalling to 40 tracks. In these songs, although there are solo tracks, there are others that have other artistes in them. How then does the split sheet come in? The split sheet will help each of the songwriters on a song to know the percentage of royalty due to him or her based on his or her input to the song. Hence, for example, the split sheet will stipulate how royalty from songs between Beyoncé and other artists like Jay-Z, Solange, Ciara amongst others would be shared or allocated.
b.) Cue Sheets: They are the primary means by which performing rights organizations track the use of music in films and TV without which it would be almost impossible for composers and producers and publishers to be compensated for their work. If the creator or producers of a song are more than one, the royalties will be divided other than equally but in a way that reflects each’s contribution to the song. Hence, for the Homecoming album, Beyoncé and any of the artistes featured in any song on the album would be entitled to royalties if any of their songs is an underscore in any movie or TV series.
To start with, synchronization means when a song is played in the background of another work such as; games and adverts. To use any artiste’s song as a background song, the artiste must have licensed such other person. Thus, for any of the songs on the album to be used for synchronization, it is a prerequisite that a license must have been obtained. Failure to obtain a license can lead to a legal suit.
For the documentary, Homecoming, Netflix has exclusive broadcasting rights. What this means is that only Netflix has the sole authority to broadcast the documentary and no other broadcasting corporation has such right. Netflix had to pay 20million dollars to acquire exclusive broadcasting rights. Broadcasting rights generate a whole lot of royalties for both the artiste and the licensee.
THE ARTISTIC DESIGN
The album cover has the lettering written in capital letters with a lot of Greek symbolism which makes it distinct from any random wording or title irrespective of the fact that there are a couple of books, movies with the title ‘Homecoming’. The album also has the portrait of the Beyoncé putting on a jewel-laced hat which is also symbolic. However, research does not reveal the artist who created this work as they were not credited for the design of the album cover. This may be because the artist has probably been assigned the work, having transferred their right.
In conclusion, where these IP assets are infringed, the potentials of a big judgment credit or settlement are high considering how much work was put into its creation.