Each co-owner of a copyright can independently grant third parties non-exclusive rights in the work, but approval of all the co-owners is needed to grant exclusive rights to third parties. Despite that, under U.S. copyright law, any co-owner of the work can sell that co-owner’s exclusive ownership share to third parties without the permission of the other co-owners.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California recently released an opinion that considered the interplay of these copyright issues. In Yellowcake Inc. v. Morena Music Inc., 1:20-CV-0787, Jesus Chavez Sr., the founder of the Mexican music group Los Originales De San Juan, had entered into an agreement in 2013 for a three-album deal for his band with the record label Morena Music.