Who owns a band’s name?

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.

We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

Written By: Jeffrey JohnsonUPDATED: Jul 16, 2021Fact Checked

A band name may be owned by the members or by whoever has taken the band under contract. Ownership of a band’s name depends largely on whether there is an informal or formal arrangement in place, and what those agreements consist of. If the name is owned by contracting parties, then the producer, the manager, or sometimes the record company itself will own the name. Of course, if the band members themselves want to retain ownership, it is always preferable to get this and other band issues agreed upon in writing. A formal band agreement that defines ownership for all band members, past, present, and future, will minimize confusion.

The Importance of Written Agreements

The band name usually belongs to all of the members of the band, but written agreements can completely change ownership. Instead of debating ownership, the parties should have an agreement in writing, and show ownership by filing a band name with the Patent and Trademark Office in Washington, D.C. This also covers the potential for discovering another band with the same or similar name. The type of copyright most commonly used in musical ownership is called a “service mark.” Service marks are meant to show creative ownership of a service, since most bands provide entertainment as a service rather than as a product.

Problems with the Rule of Thumb

As a general rule, all the people who form the band also form the band name: they have common ownership in promoting and benefitting from the name. They also have a common interest in preventing the name from being misused. Unfortunately, this sometimes leads to negative consequences, as managers may have a concept in mind for a band, find members to sign on, and then be in dispute with the band members over ownership of the name and other details associated with it, such as concert dates, royalties, and promotions. Fleetwood Mac’s manager argued for years that he, not the band members, owned the name and the manager actually created a competing band to tour. Disputes between band members can also lead to similar outcomes (e.g., Electric Light Orchestra versus ELO II).

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.

Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

Full Bio →

Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption