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Public Domain Song Question


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  • Noob

Question: How can a publisher claim the rights to a song which is older than 75 years past the death of it's writer. According to a certain record company all songs are public domain 70 years after the first December of the death of the writer. I'm speaking of the song and not the recordings. So why is a publisher claiming rights for this song?

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It depends on what jurisdictions you are dealing with.

For the UK, according to PRS:

"Copyright in original musical, literary, dramatic and artistic works lasts until 70 years

after the death of the author. The copyright in films also lasts for 70 years after the

death of the last to survive of the principal director, author of the screenplay and

dialogue and the composer of the music created specifically for the film. Copyright

protection in sound recordings and broadcasts exists for 50 years from the end of the

calendar year in which it was made or released. Copyright in the typographical

arrangement of published editions exists for 25 years from first publication.

Where the work has originated from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or

the author is not an EEA national the situation is slightly different. In this situation

the copyright will generally last for as long as the work attracts copyright protection

in the country of origin (usually the country where the work is first published) or if

not published, the author's national country as long as that period does not exceed

the period for which UK copyright law protects works of EEA origin."

Here's a link to the original document:

https://www.prsformusic.com/SiteCollectionDocuments/Copyright/Copyright_Law_Introduction.pdf

In the US:

"How long does a copyright last?

The term of copyright for a particular work depends on several factors, including whether it has been published, and, if so, the date of first publication. As a general rule, for works created after January 1, 1978, copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. For an anonymous work, a pseudonymous work, or a work made for hire, the copyright endures for a term of 95 years from the year of its first publication or a term of 120 years from the year of its creation, whichever expires first. For works first published prior to 1978, the term will vary depending on several factors. To determine the length of copyright protection for a particular work, consult chapter 3 of the Copyright Act (title 17 of the United States Code). More information on the term of copyright can be found in Circular 15a, Duration of Copyright, and Circular 1, Copyright Basics. "

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Question: How can a publisher claim the rights to a song which is older than 75 years past the death of it's writer. According to a certain record company all songs are public domain 70 years after the first December of the death of the writer. I'm speaking of the song and not the recordings. So why is a publisher claiming rights for this song?

In the UK, they most certainly shouldn't be.

The fact that they are doesn't surprise me. Copyright and Patent Law is not there to protect artists and inventors, it's there to protect corporate interests. Why would I need copyright protection for seventy years after I cease to exist?

The pretext is that this is to give your kids time to profit from the restricted works, but when you actually look at how copyright is used, the pretext turns out to be a pretext. It's a gravy train for lawyers and corporations.

it would be a lot more beneficial in many ways if a corporate entity was given a reasonable time to profit, say ten years after the purchase of a restricted material, and then it went into the public domain where it could be used for the pro bono. In music and art the world is merely denied works of beauty, but in other areas of restriction there are consequences ranging from misery to multiple fatality, for example when gene sequences or drugs are patented.

Before anyone says it, I already know... I'm a socialist extremist.

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  • Noob

John thanks for the link. Essentially in the U.S. any song prior to 1923 would be in the public domain according to circular 15a. Anything after that but before 1978 could potentially still be under copyright terms. In my case I am covering songs by Charley Patton who died in 1938. Supposedly these are owned by EMI. Just doesn't seem right to me.

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