Music Law/Rights

I figured I would post this here first, as there is a great amount of knowledge on this forum.

In November of 2005, I joined a rock group with some friends of mine.  During this time, I created some riffs and ideas which they've used in their music.  To give you an idea, my riffs and ideas are to these songs as the synths are to Rush's Subdivions or the ostinato from Mars... without them they're not the song.  Anyways, I left this group about a year ago, and the group still plays the songs, which I have no problem with.  Now, they're in process of recording an album for self release and distribution, and I was wondering... do I have a claim to those songs still?  That is, is it within my right to say ";Hey, I want my name on there as music credit for that song";?  Mind you, there has never been any formal paperwork or anything for this group and I've never signed up or signed away anything.  I was wondering if it was within my right to seek ";Song ";, music by Band Name and ME";.

Any help you guys can provide would be fantastic.
Thanks for the help.  I had just wanted to be prepared in case a poopstorm brewed up, but I spoke with them and all is good.
It's hard to copyright a riff.  You can't copyright a chord progression or a rhythm (otherwise there would be no rock or rap.)  Even a combination of the two is questionable.  If it's not the melody or lyrics, you'll have a tough time claiming it.  I learned a lot about this working on a Vh1 show last year that parodied other programs and used slightly altered theme songs.
Hey Chris remember you have an immediate copyright interest as soon as a portion of your work (song) is created.�� Having your work registered at the US Copyright Office gives you additional ";firepower"; if you ever have to go to court.�� My understanding: ";By registering or filing, you have the ability to obtain treble damages (damages in an amount three times over actual losses) together with payment of your attorney fees"; (article by Brian Scott, last paragraph at http://www.researchcopyright.com/article-registering-your-copyright.php)
When I was a member of the group, we self produced, manufactured and released an EP, which included one of the tracks in question on it.

I'm pretty much just looking for a ";XXX, music by BAND and me"; and that's it.  I'm proud of what I've done musically (especially because the songs in question are their best and fan-favorite songs :p), and I like to say, ";Yes, I arranged for these ensembles, wrote this chart and also was a part of these songs..."; 

Thanks for the help guys.
";Jim gives very sound advice"; he said with a wink. ;)��  I highly recommend the part about becoming a member of a performing rights group.�� My only experience has been with ASCAP and I have nothing but good things to say about them.�� ASCAP requires a one time $25 processing fee.�� BMI requires a 2 year contract and you cannot be a member of ASCAP or SESAC when you join.�� SESAC affiliation is based on who you know.�� All are very good organizations; each with a long history.�� It is well worth the time to investigate and decide which fits your needs the best.

http://www.ascap.com/index.html

http://www.bmi.com/

http://www.sesac.com/index.aspx
The first step would be to have a conversation with your former bandmates. If there is a rift and they don't feel you should have credit, that's the first problem you should iron out.

Assuming that's agreeable, I would recommend you and any of the other writers become members of a performance rights organization (PMO) such as ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC. Don't confuse these organizations with publishers, but they provide a way of tracking performances of your registered pieces (be it live performance or other things like radio/tv airplay). In most cases, performance rights are paid at a rate of 50% to the composer (or split between co-composers), and 50% to the publisher. Which would bring up the next question you guys may want to hash out (who's the publisher?). That probably doesn't need to be terribly complicated, and you may just be able to self-publish, but it's worth learning a little more about so everyone's on the same page.

Don't worry too much though. PMO royalties aren't likely to pay too much unless you hit a home run in the mainstream world. From what I suspect, you may be most concerned about just receiving proper credit since you played an important part in creating these tunes. Which is certainly fair enough. So see if they'll at least give you partial writing credit in the liner notes of their CD. That'd be free, simple, and fair for everyone involved. If they become the next Van Halen, at least you'll have something in writing, right?

Good luck!
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