Even rappers get the IP blues (and here’s what they do about them)
I’ve written previously about some easy steps to take to prevent people stealing your intellectual property (IP).
But what about your rights over your work when it hasn’t been stolen, but you have given or sold it to someone else? Do you even have any say about what happens to your ideas and projects once someone else owns them?
Well, the answer is yes.
Your rights are protected by moral rights.
I’ll get back to explaining moral rights in a sec. For now, a story about a rapper and a DJ…
You might have heard of the rapper, ‘Pitbull’? His real name is Armando Christian Pérez. Well, a couple of years ago he claimed in court that a DJ named Jaime Fernandez had breached his moral rights to his work.
This is how it went:
Pitbull’s DJ troubles
Pérez supplies Fernandez with an “audio drop” to promote his upcoming tour. Importantly, the audio drop contains a reference to both Pérez and Fernandez (this bit’s important because associations between DJs and rappers have a big influence on both their careers).
Pitbull’s tour is cancelled, but Fernandez decides to mix the audio drop into another of Pitbull’s songs, ‘Bon Bon’.
Fernandez uses this new mix in the promotion of his own website and at clubs when he’s DJing.
“ Even when you sell a piece of work to someone else, you maintain moral rights over it. ”
Pérez’s argument is that the song could be interpreted as mocking him for cancelling the tour, and if so this interpretation harms his reputation. He asks for a total of $85000 in damages.
Pérez’s case was successful. He was paid $10000 in damages.
Do you know your moral rights?
What’s a rapper called ‘Pitbull’ got to do with me (you, who have long given up on your dreams of wearing a panama suit and gold chains in public, ask)?
Well, the Pérez case illustrates the operation of moral rights.
Even when you sell a piece of work to someone else, you maintain moral rights over it.
Moral rights state that:
- credit must be given to the author of the work
- you can’t say that someone is the creator of a work when they are not
- you can’t do something with a work that negatively impacts on the creator’s reputation (this was applicable in the Pérez case)
The popularity of social networking means that moral rights are increasingly at risk of infringement, mainly because there is less and less control over how creative works are used.
Moral rights are automatic, so you don’t need a contract to assert them.
But it can be useful to state in contracts exact terms that outline what the work can be used for. This way, there is no confusion about how and where you want your IP used. And should a disagreement about it end up in court, it will be easier to provide evidence of your intention.