I’m going to get straight to the point. This Copyright Reversion clause is arguably one of the more important clauses a contract has to have, yet, contracts seldom have them in. Why? Because companies don’t want to give you your copyrights back, no matter the circumstances.
Let’s consider a realistic example. You are approached by a company who can make you a lot of money if you let them ‘manage’ your copyrights. What does that entail? Just a signed contract where you give your copyrights to them. Great, now they have your copyrights and can work their magic. Ok, now what if they turn out to be quite useless or maybe something more interesting came their way, and they are now focusing on making another person money instead of you. Can you just take your copyrights and leave? 9 out of 10 times you cannot. You gave it to them, and the fact that they are not using them to your advantage is just really unfortunate for you.
To add salt to the wound, let’s say, for example, you find someone who wants to use your song for a commercial. If the company you gave your copyrights to disagrees or maybe just does nothing with this proposal, then your song cannot be used in the commercial. Only the company can give permission for others to use your songs.
A solution? So how do we overcome this? Include the copyright reversion clause into the contract. As the clause name suggests, it’s a clause where copyrights reverse or ‘revert back’ to where they came from, i.e. you. Negotiate for a copyright reversion clause to be inserted into any written agreement where you have to transfer ownership of your copyrights.
Usually, when I draft contracts for clients, I will word the clause in such a way that if the company does not satisfy certain tasks by a certain time, then the copyrights automatically go back to the composer. This is practical as it forces the company to be proactive, or else they fear losing your valuable copyrights. It also prevents a situation where your copyrights lose momentum because a company is not doing anything with them, and you are unable to do anything with them because you no longer own them.
Here is an example / template clause I drafted for you to look at. These clauses can be drafted to suit your particular needs.
“In the event that we (referring to the company) do not cause the copyrights to be distributed within the first 12 months of this agreement being signed, then ownership of the copyrights will automatically vest with you on the first day of the 13th month.”
By the way, if you negotiate for this clause to be included, you will sound like a boss negotiator, and will definitely score extra points.
Have it in. No exceptions.