Case Study of Commercial Law in Action


Case Study of Commercial Law in Action; Rights and Responsibilities of The Commercial World
Athabasca University — LGST 369: Commercial Law Case Study B

Trevor is a struggling, but very talented, musician. Over the years, he has written many great songs but has yet to receive any media attention for his good work. Frustrated that he has never been able to achieve commercial success, he recently began to explore the idea of selling or licensing his work to other, already established, pop artists. He comes to your record label seeking to sell certain parts of his copyright.

As a musician, it’s vital to know what your rights are and how to ensure they are used in a way that’s aligned with the creator’s wishes. Music is considered in the realm of Intellectual property law [aiming] to protect products of the mind, it does this to provide incentives to creators, intellectual property recognizes that creators should not be able to monopolize their ideas indefinitely” (McInnes, Et Al, 2018). Musical exploitation is when another party takes advantage of the work to develop the work further (McInnes, Et Al, 2018). Musical exploitation is rather a common experience that musicians have, unfortunately. That’s why it’s vital for musicians to know their rights and to know what could happen.

Music Ownership

Unlike tangible property, there isn’t an exclusive possession over them like you would have on headphones or a CD which means that you can’t hide it away and lock it up (McInnes, Et Al, 2018). Because of that, it’s difficult to have any kind of supply and demand as there would be natural scarcity (McInnes, Et Al, 2018). Thus, there needs to be a way to ensure that an idea is exclusive and rivalrous. This is done by creating an artificial scarcity, “through the laws of intellectual property [which] is a lifeline for modern businesses” (McInnes, Et Al, 2018).

Music is considered Intellectual Property

Unbundling your copyright means separating your list of rights to your intellectual property under copyright and doing as you please with each right separately (McInnes, Et Al, 2018). Typically, this is seen in the arts industry where an individual sells particular rights to a larger corporation such as a publishing company, a producer, or in this case a records label.

What rights do the Copyright Owner have?

The rights Held by the Copyright Owner included in the bundle are listed below.

  • Produce, reproduce, perform, or publish a work
  • Translate a work
  • Convert a dramatic work into a novel, non-dramatic work, or sound recording
  • Convert a non-dramatic or artistic work into a dramatic work through public performance
  • Communicate a work by telecommunication
  • Reproduce, adapt, or present work by film or photograph
  • Present an artistic work at a public exhibition (works created after June 7, 1988)
  • Create a sound recording of a musical work
  • License computer software
  • Reproduce any performance that has been fixed
  • Fix any performance that has not yet been fixed
  • Reproduce, license, or publish sound recordings
  • Fix or reproduce broadcast signals
  • Authorize another broadcaster to simultaneously retransmit the signal

(McInnes, Et Al, 2018)

Why would a record company want some of those rights?

To put it simply, it benefits them. They can utilize certain elements of the musicians’ works without having to ask for permission.

Contracts, regardless of the industry, require understanding and patience

This isn’t always a terrible collaboration for either party. It can be done properly and fairly to benefit both sides of the musician doesn’t or can’t do more with those rights. There’s always a risk that someone will ‘screw you over. That’s why when it comes to legal agreements, it’s important to understand what you’re agreeing to and exactly what the terms are. Generally, people are good and honest however confusion and misunderstandings do happen even with the best of intentions. Ensure both sides understand what the other is intending. 


McInnes, M., Kerr, Ian R., and VanDuzer, J. Anthony, (2018). Managing the Law: The Legal Aspects of Doing Business (5th Ed.). Toronto: Pearson External tool