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Copyright Database/Details

09 May 09 - 08:11 AM (#2627642)
Subject: Copyright Database/Details
From: GUEST,Andy J. Ingram


    I am just beginning a project recording songs which are in the public domain. I planned to use as an initial resource, as it is a collection of songs which are supposed to be out of copyright, however I would like a second opinion on song of the selections. Does anyone know of a way to double-check copyright ownership?

    An example of why I would like to check is in the case of 'Nobody knows you when you're down and out' by Jimmy Cox. I have the sheet music of Eric Claptons Unplugged versoin which states the copyright as being 1922, 1929, 1978 MCA Music Publishing. Where does that leave the song regarding usage?? Is this copyright on the actual material, or recorded versions (I believe Bessie Smith recorded a version in 1929)?

Many Thanks for any help, this is proving a bit of a stumbling block to starting researching and recording in earnest!

(I am in the UK, if that makes any difference to laws etc.)


09 May 09 - 02:01 PM (#2627794)
Subject: RE: Copyright Database/Details
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

See thread 76036: Nobody knows
May be some help there.

I looked for sheet music but no luck so far.

As far as copyright is concerned, 1923 is out of copyright, but any later dates are still under copyright. I am guessing the copyright is American.

09 May 09 - 02:11 PM (#2627801)
Subject: RE: Copyright Database/Details
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

By sheet music, I meant the original Cox sheet music. Later material by Clapton, Smith, etc. still protected.

10 May 09 - 12:16 AM (#2628095)
Subject: RE: Copyright Database/Details
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

Guest Andy, post your request to the thread I linked.
The heading copyright etc. scares people off, there has been a lot of stuff here about that.
Ask for specific info on the song; the original 1923 sheet music ought to be available somewhere.

10 May 09 - 12:34 AM (#2628109)
Subject: RE: Copyright Database/Details
From: katlaughing

A long time ago, I remember someone posted a link to somewhere at the Library of COngress(?) where one could look up a piece of music for the related info. I remember looking up my brother's classical pieces. Here is a link to the LOC, but I don't see a place to search for music, in just a quick checking.

Do you remember that, Q?

10 May 09 - 04:16 AM (#2628141)
Subject: RE: Copyright Database/Details
From: Richard Bridge

Yes, Andy. The UK comprises England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland - and let us please ignore the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man - and Copyright Law is the same in all lf them. It is UK copyright law, since the USA has not conquered us yet, but it is subject to EU law, since we joined the EU a long time ago. UK law applies in the UK its territories and possessions.

The USA comprises some 50 states. Each is subject to federal US law and also has local state law. Copyright law is largely the same in each. There is a federal copyright statute and thanks to the doctrine of federal pre-emption states cannot make local laws within the ambit of the federal statute. Howevre local state law may exist and apply on a state-by-state basis in areas that are outside the federal statute - for example when I last checked (it was in the early 90s) California still had a local common law copyright for works that had not been reduced to a material form. US law only applies in the USA (its territories and possessions).

It makes a massive indeed one might say total difference, particularly in the areas in which you are working. If you are not going to make or supply copies of your recordings outside the area ruled by UK law, you can and almost wholly should ignore US copyright law. (save as below).

In the UK, so long as a work passes the gateways below it will remain in copyright until the 31st December of the 70th year after the date of death of the author. Registration and stuff like that is irrelevant.

First, the work must have been made or first published (if it is after our 1988 Act) by a "qualifying person" or in a jurisdiction to which the UK Act extends (present tense) or applied (past tense). The meaning of "first" is affected by international conventions. This simple statement is a real oversimplification, but is OK for a first approximation.

The code in the '88 Act (and relevant statutory instruments) applies to pre-88 act works subject as below and transitional provisions are in the schedules. It changed the expression "qualified person" (as is had been until then) to "qualifying person" for no reason that anyone I know understands.

Second, if it is a pre-56 Act work, it has to pass the '56 gateway, ie have been in UK copyright on the commencement date of the '56 Act in late '57. This is the bit with the fun in it because it was only in 1956 that the UK and USA became parties to a common copyright convention - the Universal Copyright Convention. Until then unless a US citizen was domiciled or resident in either the UK or a country with which we had copyright relations (eg France) he was not a qualifying person, and his work could only get UK copyright if first published here or in a country with which we had copyright relations. So many, many pre-56 Act US works are not in copyright in the UK, there is no register (the US one you mention is wholly irrelevant as it works ONLY under US law), and the vital facts have to be researched on a case-by-case basis and can be very hard or impossible to discover.

If it is a pre-1911 Act work (this could be relevant: if a young lad writes a tune and annotates it in say 1910, when he was 16, and then lived to 96, he died in 1990 and the work might have been in copyright for another 70 years eg until 2060) it has to pass the 1911 has to pass the 1911 Act gateway - BUT there are two other restrictions. First the types of copyright will only include the rights to which the work was entitled pre-1911, and second the duration is truncated to that which applied as if the 1911 Act had not been passed. A pre-1911 work which was unpublished in 1911 could still be in copyright today - it was only in 1988 that the last vestiges of "perpetual copyright" (in unpublished works) were removed.

Simple rules

If the author (and that means also the author of any arrangement that you are reproducing, at least closely enough) died before the end of 1938, the work is very likely indeed out of copyright in the UK.

If the author is/was American, and the work is a pre-56 Act work, you need to find out where the work was "first" published AND any place in which it was published within 30 days of the "first" publication. This may be impossible, as only the music publishers will have the facts and they will lie to support their own claims to copyright. If any such place was in the UK or any country with which we had copyright relations (NB including Canada) then subject to duration, the work is copyright in the UK, so long as it passes the "gateways" above.

Happy hunting.

11 May 09 - 07:50 AM (#2628899)
Subject: RE: Copyright Database/Details

Q, thanks for all your replies!

Richard, I had feared that things would be so complicated! I will take the time to absorb as much of your info as I can squeeze into my head, but I think I will be putting a disclaimer on anywhere I post tracks or lyrics that they are out of copyright 'to the best of my knowledge' and that I will remove them at the request of any copyright holder. Hopefully that wil cover my slow uptake of the copyright law-byrinth!

Thanks, Andy