Who owns the copyright on your CD cover?

The fact that the CD cover of a young artist can appear, among others, a photo of him strumming his beloved guitar, looking into the distance, doesn’t necessarily mean that this bright-eyed artist owns the copyright to the CD cover.

If the bright-eyed artist was responsible for the composition of the photograph, he may own the copyright in the photographic work. If the artist’s manager, however, has provided information on the artist’s positioning with his guitar, the manager may own the copyright in the photograph. That being said, the issue of copyright ownership on the CD cover does not end there.

It is unlikely that a CD cover will consist entirely of a photograph of the artist with the bright eyes. Whimsical writing, artist name and album name would likely appear on the cover art. Thus, other aspects of the CD cover would also be protected by copyright and different ownership rules would apply to each aspect.

In addition, there are certain exceptions to ownership. If the bright-eyed artist ordered and paid the photographer to take his photo, he would own the copyright in the photograph. However, in most cases the artist’s record company would have commissioned the photograph to be taken and, therefore, own the copyright in the photograph.

It is clear from the above that with regard to a CD cover, several aspects can be protected by copyright and it is possible that different people hold the copyright.

It is advised that a single person or entity (such as a record company) owns all the relevant copyright in a CD cover, to avoid any uncertainty. In this regard, the copyright in the works concerned should be assigned, in writing, to a person or entity. An entertainment lawyer should be consulted to ensure that all possible works are identified and properly attributed to the person concerned.


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