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What Rights Do I Have to Prevent my Co-Writer to Change Our Copyright Registration?

Full Question: I co-wrote a musical piece with a partner in 1993. We are no longer on speaking terms, and my co-writer is trying to amend the registration to change names as well as the year on the registration. What rights do I have to prevent these changes?

Answer: Generally, if you and your partner co-wrote a work with the intent to merge the contributions into an interdependent or inseparable whole, you are joint authors of the work. From your question, it appears that you have a certificate of registration for the musical work listing you and your partner as co-authors and possibly co-claimants.

Either co-author/co-claimant listed on the initial registration could file a supplementary registration to make the changes described and you would not be able to prevent such a claim from being registered. It is important to note that a supplementary registration will not replace the prior basic registration, but it will supplement the Office’s public record for this work and will provide a separate effective date of registration for the supplemental registration. The Office does not conduct adversarial proceedings and cannot adjudicate factual or legal disputes between parties. If there is a dispute between two or more parties, such disputes must be resolved in the courts. See Compendium (Third) ยค 1808.

Answered by:

Rob Kasunic, Director of Registration Policy and Practices at the U.S. Copyright Office.