Dividing intellectual property in a divorce can be tricky sometimes. I’ve had the pleasure of representing artists, singer/songwriters, and authors over the years. These cases often don’t look any different than other cases where you usually see the flat screen, the sofa, the family sedan, the Harley, the boat, and the IRAs lined up under either “Property Awarded to Husband” or “Property Awarded to Wife” in the decree. But assets containing copyrights, royalties, patents, and other intellectual properties require special attention to ensure the division, or award, is clear, correct, and thorough.
My good friend and attorney, Tamera Bennett, practices in the area of intellectual property and she has guided me through many of these issues. She has stressed to me over the years how important it is to identify the potential issues early on so they can be dealt with properly, to begin with. Otherwise, intellectual property issues can become problematic very quickly, and the effects can be very long-lasting.
Tamera recently wrote an article for the July 14, 2014 edition of Texas Lawyer titled “Divorced in Motown: Who Gets the Rights?” dealing with such an issue. You can access the article on her blog where she discussed a recent case involving Smokey Robinson and his former wife for the past thirty years, Claudette Robinson.
Tamera pointed out the difficulty in dividing up certain items, such as songs written by Smokey Robinson, that may still yield royalties for an ex-spouse decades later. It is best to take the time, at the time of divorce-before the decree is actually entered, to research and evaluate if, how, and when each and every asset can be divided or awarded to each party. Failing to do so could invite disaster later on. In Smokey Robinson’s case, it was thirty years later on.
The best advice for splitting recordings, books, and other copyrighted assets in a divorce is essentially the same as in any divorce involving the division of valuable assets: hire the right lawyer who has the knowledge and resources to get you the best result possible. Failing to properly address certain assets, like copyrighted songs, can lead to a disaster down the road.