When does music become public domain?


Razbo
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06/08/2010 1:06 am
Is there a general period of time? I tried wiki-ing it, and came up with 50-100 years after the author's death.
...so ever since then, I always hang on to the buckle.
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EASDave
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06/08/2010 8:45 am
My understanding is that it's 70 years after the composer's death here in the UK and in the US but only 50 in Canada.

Dave.
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ChristopherSchlegel
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06/08/2010 12:21 pm
Originally Posted by: RazboIs there a general period of time? I tried wiki-ing it, and came up with 50-100 years after the author's death.

From this site:

http://www.pdinfo.com/copyrt.php

Works created after 1/1/1978 - life of the longest surviving author plus 70 years - earliest possible PD date is 1/1/2048

Works registered before 1/1/1978 - 95 years from the date copyright was secured.

Works registered before 1/1/1923 - Copyright protection for 75 years has expired and these works are in the public domain.

You should use a public domain composition only if you have proof of public domain from a legitimate source.


And the ultimate legit source is of course the Library Of Congress, holder of copyright claims.
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Razbo
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06/08/2010 2:40 pm
That's interesting. And way longer than I thought!

This is probably flammable material, but I personally have a bit of an issue with people profiting post-humously from artists. I think it (music et al) should become public domain upon their death. I don't really like the idea of Sony cashing in on Hendrix, for example. Or what's going on with Zappa's stuff.

But then, why shouldn't the rest of the 'Experience crew benefit from those old recordings? They were part of it after all.

Hmm... I think it's too deep for me.
...so ever since then, I always hang on to the buckle.
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Jarsew
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06/08/2010 4:04 pm
I personally have no idea on how this stuff works, but shouldnt the rights to music be considered just like everything else that would be in a will? That upon the musicians death the rights get transferred to whoever he chose in his will?

Perhaps that is how it works, perhaps it doesnt, I frankly have no idea when it comes to the business aspect of music...
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EASDave
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06/08/2010 5:43 pm
Originally Posted by: CSchlegelFrom this site:


And the ultimate legit source is of course the Library Of Congress, holder of copyright claims.



Chris,
It may be for you, but not for Razbo or me!!!!!!

Dave
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ChristopherSchlegel
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06/08/2010 8:10 pm
Originally Posted by: RazboThat's interesting. And way longer than I thought!
[/quote]
It is a result of trying to balance the intellectual property rights of creators with a reasonable amount of finite time.
[QUOTE=Razbo]
... I personally have a bit of an issue with people profiting post-humously from artists. I think it (music et al) should become public domain upon their death. I don't really like the idea of Sony cashing in on Hendrix, for example. Or what's going on with Zappa's stuff.

That's exactly why there are issues. :)

Zappa is a perfect case. He died too young due to cancer. He built a successful maverick career and was still good for many more productive earning years. But that life was cut short. His wife & kids depended upon him as the family provider. Gail Zappa worked at home on the Zappa mail order business for years after he got out from under his Warner contract.

I've heard FZ was extremely clear about his intentions regarding his family retaining control of the rights of his music. How else would his family survive? The family that worked with him & helped him achieve his own success?

As far as the Hendrix stuff, that is a case of Hendrix's family members leveraging it in order to make money. Sony Corp. (or whoever) can only do it at the permission of the legal copyright heir. So, of course, Sony is "in it for the money", why shouldn't they be?

My issue is the fact that family members that seem to have "come out of the woodwork" after Hendrix's death are in control of the work. Did Hendrix choose these people as heirs? Probably not. He died young & unexpectedly. Were these people truly loved family members that depended upon Hendrix for support as in wife & kids? Were they proper heirs? Probably not. But make no mistake, they are ones cashing in on Hendrix's legacy, more so than any "greedy company".

http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19941127&slug=1944103

To return to main issue, I think the "extra time" after the author's death is supposed to represent the immediate family, spouse, children, loved ones, etc. that form approximately one generation beyond the author's life.

Extending anything into infinity is absurd & unrealistic, because there is no such thing as actual infinity. Therefore, there has to be some limit set as a cutoff point.

So, I think the copyright law is an attempt to find the balance. Make sense?

In some cases it does get strange. Some investors buy songs. The Beatles famously sold the rights to many of their tunes in the 60s. Michael Jackson bought a lot of them after he got wealthy. That left Paul McCartney in the bizarre position of having to try and buy back his own tunes. And in some cases being unable to!

I've had issue with older songs (jazz standards) that are owned by third parties that have no stake in the creation, no relation to the creator, but manage to extend copyright purely by legislative fiat.

For example, Duke Ellington & George Gershwin & their immediate families have been dead for decades. But copyrights on their tunes are still being "renewed" over and again by third parties. :confused: I know they are able to make money on them, and that's great.

But, I'd like to teach them on the site, for example. Or just play them & rearrange them without fear of copyright violation. I'd like to make money playing them too! :) I'd have no problem asking or paying Duke or George or their kids. But none of them are around.

So, it's frustration that the law is sometimes applied non-objectively & inconsistently. That much I have some moral contentions with.

In any event, the bottom line is that the law is written as is. It is a reasonable solution to a very tricky situation. And I also appreciate it because it is a law that protects my livelihood & how I provide for my family. :)
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Razbo
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06/08/2010 9:43 pm
Originally Posted by: CSchlegel
My issue is the fact that family members that seem to have "come out of the woodwork" after Hendrix's death are in control of the work. Did Hendrix choose these people as heirs? Probably not. He died young & unexpectedly. Were these people truly loved family members that depended upon Hendrix for support as in wife & kids? Were they proper heirs? Probably not. But make no mistake, they are ones cashing in on Hendrix's legacy, more so than any "greedy company".


http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19941127&slug=1944103

[/quote]
I'm not sure. Sounds like Branton might be the one benefiting right now...?

[QUOTE=CSchlegel]
Extending anything into infinity is absurd & unrealistic, because there is no such thing as actual infinity.


Ha! The big Moving Truck is going to put this in the Metaphysical Quandry forum :D
...so ever since then, I always hang on to the buckle.
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ChristopherSchlegel
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06/09/2010 2:27 am
Originally Posted by: RazboI'm not sure. Sounds like Branton might be the one benefiting right now...?
[/quote]
Yes, Leo Branton made money on it. But, make no mistake, he earned it by building it from a pile of liabilities:

When his son died, Al Hendrix as sole heir was warned to expect little from the estate, which faced claims from his son's ex-girlfriends with babies, managers, the IRS and other creditors. The estate teetered on bankruptcy.

Into a business that paid Al Hendrix very well:
Branton sorted through the various claims on Jimi's estate and arranged a series of deals beginning in 1974 in which Al Hendrix received promises of money in exchange for transferring rights to his son's music and other assets to a Panamanian company. Al Hendrix came away with payments of $50,000 a year for 10 years, plus big sums that were promised for a Hendrix family trust. By 1983, the value of Jimi Hendrix's music had so grown, Branton says, that he got the $50,000 payments to Al Hendrix extended for life.

Enter Janie Hendrix-Wright and Leon Hendrix. Branton isn't threatening to kill them, bury them, cut them out or off. He's offering them a deal that would pay them $1,000,000!

And who are these people?

Janie Hendrix-Wright ... feels a close kinship to Jimi Hendrix, even though she only had three brief contacts with him, the last in 1970.

I can think of lots of people marginally related to me that I've met briefly at a few family functions over the years. These are not the type of people that deserve to be cut in on what I would want left to my wife & kids.

The family wild card is Leon Hendrix, who did time in prison for burglary and is estranged from Al and Janie. His whereabouts are unknown to the family. Ironically, it was Leon Hendrix who first raised doubts about Branton's handling of the Hendrix legacy, but his father disregarded the warnings.

Charming person, huh? An ex-con, who distrusted the guy who built the mess Hendrix left into a profitable business. Without which none of these people would have anything.

Where did brother Leon weigh in on the situation?

Nonetheless, Leon accepted Branton's offer. Al Hendrix and his daughter did not.

Oh. He didn't trust greedy Branton. But took his money anyway. :rolleyes:
[quote=Razbo]
Ha! The big Moving Truck is going to put this in the Metaphysical Quandry forum :D

:p Well, the point remains that the cut off date is a reasonable one, due to the fact that it limits the amount of time to at least people that the author would have known, loved, actually valued & explicitly intended to be an heir.

As opposed to the peanut-gallery that always shows up when they smell other people's productive efforts turning into money. :rolleyes:

In other news, congrats on 1,000 posts!
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Razbo
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06/09/2010 2:11 pm
It's quite a ball of yarn. I have to say, I did not consider the concept of providing for one's family. I really didn't look beyond the fact that the artist had died. It just seemed unethical to me to make new albums under a deceased artist's name.

So, willing the rights seems like a logical thing. As does being able to retain or sell those rights for some reasonable amount of time.

An interesting and eye opening thread. Thanks for the info!
...so ever since then, I always hang on to the buckle.
# 10
ChristopherSchlegel
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06/10/2010 12:05 pm
Originally Posted by: RazboI really didn't look beyond the fact that the artist had died. It just seemed unethical to me to make new albums under a deceased artist's name.[/quote]
That is indeed a bizarre situation. But, consider two facts:

1. There is a market demand for Hendrix.
2. Hendrix left a bunch of unreleased recorded material.

Regardless of what you & I think, someone is going to put those two pieces of info together. I suppose it's best if it is done in a way that at least benefits someone Hendrix knew & might have chosen as an heir.

What I've read & heard from friends that are interested in the stuff, most of it is studio quality, but still unpolished demos, jams, and discarded takes of half finished songs. So, I have no idea how those in charge of the project decide what to use & how. I don't know what possible standard they could use. It's not as if Hendrix left instructions. :confused:

A couple friends of mine that are big Hendrix fans have the complete MCA recordings, with tons of outtakes, and the other posthumously released albums. I've heard them years ago & they are sub-standard in my opinion compared to his three main studio albums. Some of them are just noisy jams that I found boring or even annoying. In my opinion, these things simply do not do justice to the artist that I think of as the creator of such beautiful tunes as "May This Be Love", "The Wind Cries Mary", or "Castles Made Of Sand". :(

But, YMMV.
[QUOTE=Razbo]
An interesting and eye opening thread. Thanks for the info!

My pleasure. Thanks for the discussion. :)
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KFS1972
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06/11/2010 3:47 am
Originally Posted by: CSchlegelFor example, Duke Ellington & George Gershwin & their immediate families have been dead for decades. But copyrights on their tunes are still being "renewed" over and again by third parties. :confused: I know they are able to make money on them, and that's great.



Its funny that you would mention Gershwin specifically. When I began reading this thread I had decided that I was going to ask about "Rhapsody in Blue" and whether is had made it to PD. I guess I already have my answer :-)

Interesting topic. I can understand the family of the song writer benefiting or own the rights to the songs of dead artists. But record companies simply "milking it" as long as the law will allow begins to seem dirty after some number of years. On one hand I think music would be better off without the "music industry". But, on the other hand, I would probably have never heard of Gershwin without the big machine that is Disney (I'll admit it, I heard it first on Fantasia 2000 with my kids).
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06/11/2010 11:17 am
Originally Posted by: KFS1972
Interesting topic. I can understand the family of the song writer benefiting or own the rights to the songs of dead artists. But record companies simply "milking it" as long as the law will allow begins to seem dirty after some number of years.


See, that's EXACTLY what I was having a problem with. I'm not sure how this works, either, but when an artist dies, any contract with a record company should become null and ownership revert back to the family.
...so ever since then, I always hang on to the buckle.
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JeffS65
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06/12/2010 11:55 am
Originally Posted by: RazboSee, that's EXACTLY what I was having a problem with. I'm not sure how this works, either, but when an artist dies, any contract with a record company should become null and ownership revert back to the family.


In short, it depends on who owns the recordings. In most cases, it's the record company. As part of most contracts, the records company stipulates that if they pay for the recording, they own the tapes. Sometimes this is forever and others it is for a finite if somewhat long period of time.

Take for instance Slaughter - Stick It To Ya. Before Mark and Dana ever got a contract, they had already produced a first class sounding record. In bringing it to the record company, they exclusively licensed it to the record company for a finite period of time. When that period expires, Slaughter is free to do what they wish with the recordings. The licensing agreement essentially says that the band retains ownership but that the label has a period of time where they are the exclusive label for production and distribution of the recordings.

Versus the most every other band; since the label paid for the recording, they retain ownership. The artist will never have control of the original recordings. The label can re-issue those at will or not do anything at all and that is their prerogative. In doing a re-issue, the artist (or estate) does get paid mechanical royalties and any key performer may (theoretically...) get paid a performance royalty for appearing on the release. Still, the label owns and therefor can release as they wish because that was the terms of the contract.

Obviously the Slaughter way was much smarter but most bands do the second scenario because they are broke and willing to do what it takes to get something out. Mark and Dana, having worked with Vinnie Vincent, knew the ropes of the biz and scraped up what cash they could and knew doing it themselves was a better way.

What does this mean to he thread. In most all instances, the contract is a 'sign your life away' type of deal and the label is just opting on what it contractually is allowed to do.

It may sound like a seedy but in the 'old days' where a label would take chances on bands, they might spend $100,000 on recording something then only sell 5000. While not in exact terms, this happened more often than not. By retaining the ability to own the recordings, there is a chance that the label could recoup that in the future. Even though it seems unfair, the label is taking the financial risk on behalf of the artist and needs some level of control to recoup the investment when opportunities arise.

That does also mean that when they have a 'hot' artist, they clean up.

The artist does retain the right to use their songs as they wish after a much shorter period of time. This is why you will see 're-recorded' versions of songs from the original artist to do re-release 'Best of's'.

So, a little more detail from what I understand as to why things just don't revert to artists and families automatically. Whether right or wrong....
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06/12/2010 12:35 pm
Originally Posted by: JeffS65
The artist does retain the right to use their songs as they wish after a much shorter period of time. This is why you will see 're-recorded' versions of songs from the original artist to do re-release 'Best of's'.


I never realized that regarding re-releases.

Well, it's no new thing as far what the Companies do for themselves and [u]can[/u] do for you. It's a choice that, these days, any artist not living on the moon must be aware of what they are setting themselves up for.

But the alternative could be years - or even a lifetime of struggle selling CD's from a trunk.
...so ever since then, I always hang on to the buckle.
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06/12/2010 5:29 pm
Originally Posted by: RazboI never realized that regarding re-releases.

Well, it's no new thing as far what the Companies do for themselves and [u]can[/u] do for you. It's a choice that, these days, any artist not living on the moon must be aware of what they are setting themselves up for.

But the alternative could be years - or even a lifetime of struggle selling CD's from a trunk.


While it's not the path to millions, the best possible scenario these days for an artist is to find a well distributed indie label. With the advent of home recording and the ability to make top notch stuff on your own, you could make a licensing deal with that indie. You are not beholden to the major for tons of cash and have a better level of freedom.

In return, a well distributed label will get the product in to stores. Then between yourself and the label, work out a strategy for promotion. They discs ain't gonna sell themselves so you best get guerilla about it. For a young band, getting out there and playing is still the way to go. Artists always made the most consistent money with shows and selling stuff at shows.

The label can concentrate on targeted promotion and likely has the connections to get the release in front of sources that review and promote.

It's a way to make a living. Not riches and fame but the path to that is much different than it was before. Though I am a believer in digital media, I still think there is value in having a salable product. Also, the ability to make a living with plays in digital media is so difficult because you have to move lots of plays in order to scrape up a little cash.

So, anyway...digressing. There is money in music but it's no longer just aiming for the major and hoping. It's looking in to the niche of a genre and finding the best source to promote your art.
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ChristopherSchlegel
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06/13/2010 4:59 am
Originally Posted by: KFS1972Its funny that you would mention Gershwin specifically.

Rhapsody in Blue was written in 1924. George Gershwin died in 1938.

I love Gershwin's music. :)

To me the issue isn't so much that companies are milking it. That's fine with me. I appreciate the fact that companies like Disney use RIB & Stravinsky's Firebird in the wonderful Fantasia 2000 DVD. I love it & watch it with my kid, too! :)

I think the issue I take is with that exclusive rights & extended copyrighting could belong to someone other than the creator, chosen heirs & those the creator sold rights to.

JeffS65 brought up some great points in a closely related, but separate issue: mechanical reproduction. The copyright belongs to the creator unless willed or sold. The rights to record, publish & distribute some physical object that is a manifestation of the work copyrighted is a separate issue. It is often referred to as licensing or mechanical reproduction rights to publish.

So, for example, there is a difference between recording your own version of a Hendrix or Gershwin song & using the actual recording someone else already made (Hendrix or Gershwin, for example). And you can possess the copyright and, or the right to publish. Or buy the right to publish.

But I've seen on sheet music for some Gershwin tunes "Copyright 1930, Renewed 1954". And I think, "Renewed? By who? George died in 1938!"

But, anyway, I've purchased the rights to record & publish my own versions of Gershwin songs. It's easy, inexpensive & legal. But, yes quite obviously someone other than the creator & his heirs are benefiting.
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06/14/2010 11:31 am
Coincidentally, I notice Dweezil is going to be playing Zappa plays Zappa at my preferred local venue. Would it be unethical of me to go?
...so ever since then, I always hang on to the buckle.
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ChristopherSchlegel
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06/14/2010 12:41 pm
Originally Posted by: RazboCoincidentally, I notice Dweezil is going to be playing Zappa plays Zappa at my preferred local venue. Would it be unethical of me to go?

No, of course not! Dweezil is Frank's son. Actually, Dweezil with his band ZPZ is one of the only (if the only) bands authorized by the Zappa Family Trust to play FZs music. Unless, of course another band purchases a license to do so from the Trust.

Dweezil is a funny guy & good musician in his own right. He will never be the original creator his father was, but he does his father's music justice. He can play it, he understands it, he does it right. :)
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