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Ukuleleblues
07-31-2009, 11:14 AM
The last show we played a few folks asked if we had CDs to sell. A lot of the songs we play are old (60-100+ years old). Can anyone point me in the right direction to find out what the copyright laws protect and what songs are covered and what I can record and sell?

Tanizaki
07-31-2009, 11:40 AM
If the songs you play are 60-100 years old, most of them will be in the public domain. Copyright law has changed over the years, and the terms of protection have become longer. A few of the questions on my final intellectual property exam in law school were basically math questions based on when the work was created.

Some basic rules:
Anything published before Jan 1, 1923 is in the public domain.

This chart should hopefully help with the rest.
http://copyright.cornell.edu/resources/publicdomain.cfm

If you do need a license to release a recording, you can get a mechanical license from the Harry Fox agency. They have a convenient webpage for just that thing.

Trenchcoatangel
07-31-2009, 12:16 PM
Older songs sometimes will fall under the public domain catagory. I had to look up because I forgot the timespans(been a while since my music business class).

If it was published before 1923, you are all clear

1923-1963 If the copyright did not pass on from the original owner to a child/spose, or owner just plain forgot to renew copyright, you are safe.

It's overall a big mess of dates

http://www.unc.edu/~unclng/public-d.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_domain is a little less nifty a layout, but it goes a little more indepth

That's all your public domain information, found my copy of the copyright act and as of 2002 this is current, I don't believe there have been any changes in that portion of public domain part. You may want to double check this, I'll look a little more into it as well and let you know if I find it has changed

If it does not fall into public domain
http://www.cleverjoe.com/articles/music_copyright_law.html
This gives a pretty nice rundown of how to obtain rights for a cover

Protecting your property

Next order of business, protecting your recordings. You could do the old mail yourself a copy and don't open it ever unless you need to in court, in front of the people who would need to verify it has been sealed since the postmarked date. This will stand up to a degree, oppisition can still whine about that though.

If you really want to make sure that your work is protected, you will want to obtain an SR(sound recording) This protects your actual recording so if someone did, say, use your recording in a commercial sans permission you would have grounds to press charges. This cost's $45, but if you plan on it getting decent circulation this is highly advisable.

http://www.copyright.gov/forms/
It's about halfway down the page, or just search for SR in your brower on that page.

If I remember anything I forgot I'll update

PS. I'm just a geek who know's WAAY too much about copyright law for any normal person, I think I remember hearing a couple here on UU were/are lawers. I'm guessing they will most likely know more than me

and by the way, congrats on the fan demand for CD!

clayton56
07-31-2009, 11:17 PM
I remember a lot of things were due to pass into the public domain in 1995, the copyright holders were in a panic and got Congress to extend their rights another lifetime or so.

One major reason was the copyrights on Disney stuff all would have passed into public domain.

Too bad, there would have been a lot of early jazz music and show tunes passing into public domain as well.

Pippin
08-01-2009, 01:27 AM
In many European countries, copyright passes after 50 years, so, a lot more is publically available there.

The current span of copyright protection, also called the "Mickey Mouse Law" in the music industry is 95 years after the death of the copyright holder. I am a songwriter and member of ASCAP and I still think it is stupid. In the founding father's law, the way it was established, protection was for eleven years and non-renewable.

Even though I wrote my best songs in 1991, 92 time-frame, I am still an advocate of the original length. The law was changed to protect Disney's interest in Mickey Mouse, hence the joke about Mickey Mouse Law.

ichadwick
08-01-2009, 02:06 AM
It will also depend on what country you're recording in and where you sell the music. The USA has some pretty restrictive laws about music copyright, thanks to the efforts of the late Sonny Bono. Not everyone has the same restrictions or excessive time for copyright longevity, but most countries will respect one another's copyright regulations.

In Canada (http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/resources/legislation/canadian_law/federal/copyright_act/cdn_copyright_ov.cfm), for example,:

Protection under copyright laws is automatic in Canada: as soon as an original work has been written down, recorded or entered as a computer file, it is immediately copyright-protected....
Copyright entitlement legally ends at a certain point: generally, it endures for the lifetime of the creator, the remainder of the calendar year in which the creator dies, and for 50 years after the end of that calendar year.
Which means in 2009 there's still active copyright on music for anyone who died in 1959 and later.

ichadwick
08-01-2009, 02:08 AM
In many European countries, copyright passes after 50 years, so, a lot more is publically available there...
Does it pass into the public domain after 50 years or 50 years after the death of the author (as in Canada)?

What we need somewhere is a sticky thread with links to various copyright sites and documents.

Pippin
08-01-2009, 02:42 AM
Does it pass into the public domain after 50 years or 50 years after the death of the author (as in Canada)?

What we need somewhere is a sticky thread with links to various copyright sites and documents.

Public Domain after fifty years.

Early Elvis recordings are there now.

rayan
08-01-2009, 09:30 AM
Public Domain is usually reserved for very old songs. If you're playing songs from the 40s-50s, someone probably still does own the rights. Harry Fox Agency has a service called Song File that can help you pay for the mechanical licenses for most copyrighted mainstream music.

http://www.harryfox.com/index.jsp

If you can't find it there, you will have to search for the publisher on ascap, BMI, or sesac and contact them manually.

CDbaby had a good article about obtaining mechanical or compulsory licenses to reproduce copyrighted music. Unfortunately the article was taken down once CD baby was acquired by Discmakers. but its still cached

http://74.125.155.132/search?q=cache:gY2exnImMQ0J:www.it.cdbaby.net/dd-covers+obtaining+compulsory+license+CDbaby&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=firefox-a

With all that being said though, the amount you will end up paying in royalties is very small. it averages to around 9-10 cents a song per unit sold.

ProfChris
08-01-2009, 11:10 AM
Pippin is out of date for Europe I'm afraid.

The position is complicated because there are potentially three separate copyrights in a song (this is true for the US, as well as for Europe):

1. Copyright in the music

2. Copyright in the lyrics

3. Copyright in a sound recording of the song.

In Europe, 1 and 2 expire 70 years after the death of the composer/lyricist. However, until this was harmonised in the EU around 1995 (from memory), different countries had different time periods - the UK, where I'm from, was 50 years. The tough cases are where the composer/lyricist died between 1925 and 1945 - the transitional rules are complicated.

No 3 is most complicated, but as we're talking about making your own recordings we can forget that here.

The OP is in the US, so if he makes CDs and sell them only in the US, then only the US rules apply.

If you post recordings online, or sell online via iTunes, CDBaby or whatever, then you might run into difficulties with claims from the non-US rights owners. It's all horribly complicated, which is why there is room for me to Profess in that area.

Don't forget that you're not looking for the date of the song, but when the composer and lyricist died. This means that many of the Jazz Age songs are still well within copyright - for example, Irving Berlin lived until 1989, so his songs are in copyright both in the US and Europe and will be for many years yet. Music might come out of copyright before or after the lyric, depending on who dies first.

The easy (apart from the cost) answer is to obtain a licence from the relevant collecting society; the problem is if you need a world-wide licence (which anyone distributing online would need). It may be that the US agency can collect on behalf of foreign rights owners, but I don't know.

Ukuleleblues
08-01-2009, 11:17 AM
I really appreciate the information supplied here. I am going to start researching on a song by song basis. I bet I can get up an album with 80-90% Public domain songs. I don't mind paying a royality if it is a per unit basis with no up front costs. I really don't expect to be making house payments with the CD income. :D Thank you all again for the great information!!!

Pippin
08-01-2009, 12:21 PM
Public Domain is usually reserved for very old songs. If you're playing songs from the 40s-50s, someone probably still does own the rights. Harry Fox Agency has a service called Song File that can help you pay for the mechanical licenses for most copyrighted mainstream music.

http://www.harryfox.com/index.jsp

If you can't find it there, you will have to search for the publisher on ascap, BMI, or sesac and contact them manually.

CDbaby had a good article about obtaining mechanical or compulsory licenses to reproduce copyrighted music. Unfortunately the article was taken down once CD baby was acquired by Discmakers. but its still cached

http://74.125.155.132/search?q=cache:gY2exnImMQ0J:www.it.cdbaby.net/dd-covers+obtaining+compulsory+license+CDbaby&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=firefox-a

With all that being said though, the amount you will end up paying in royalties is very small. it averages to around 9-10 cents a song per unit sold.

One minor correction. It's 9.1 cents per track for CDs produced. Sales has nothing to do with it, unfortunately.

Pippin
08-01-2009, 12:23 PM
Pippin is out of date for Europe I'm afraid.

The position is complicated because there are potentially three separate copyrights in a song (this is true for the US, as well as for Europe):

1. Copyright in the music

2. Copyright in the lyrics

3. Copyright in a sound recording of the song.

In Europe, 1 and 2 expire 70 years after the death of the composer/lyricist. However, until this was harmonised in the EU around 1995 (from memory), different countries had different time periods - the UK, where I'm from, was 50 years. The tough cases are where the composer/lyricist died between 1925 and 1945 - the transitional rules are complicated.

No 3 is most complicated, but as we're talking about making your own recordings we can forget that here.

The OP is in the US, so if he makes CDs and sell them only in the US, then only the US rules apply.

If you post recordings online, or sell online via iTunes, CDBaby or whatever, then you might run into difficulties with claims from the non-US rights owners. It's all horribly complicated, which is why there is room for me to Profess in that area.

Don't forget that you're not looking for the date of the song, but when the composer and lyricist died. This means that many of the Jazz Age songs are still well within copyright - for example, Irving Berlin lived until 1989, so his songs are in copyright both in the US and Europe and will be for many years yet. Music might come out of copyright before or after the lyric, depending on who dies first.

The easy (apart from the cost) answer is to obtain a licence from the relevant collecting society; the problem is if you need a world-wide licence (which anyone distributing online would need). It may be that the US agency can collect on behalf of foreign rights owners, but I don't know.

Thanks for the update, Prof. That is good to know.