Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Question of the Day: - April 14, 2009

f thorbur asks:

I was wondering if I wanted to do a cover of an already copyrighted song, how would I go about getting permission to record the copyrighted song? Would I go to the record company? Or to the artist's agent? Is it easy to get permission to do this?

Hartmann responds:

A song is only licensed by the publisher the first time it is recorded. Once a record has been released a legal statute called "A compulsory license" comes into effect. This means you may record a cover version of any song in the known universe without permission. You are still liable to pay the statutory rate for that song on every copy sold. The current rate is 9.1 cents a song. If it is a new song that has never been recorded you must contact the publisher and secure a license. Mechanical royalties for songs in the public domain accrue to the recording artist. Copyrights expire fifty years after the death of the songwriter and then enter the public domain.


Tim Sanders said...

Hey John -- What if the original song is changed, say with a new chord progression, lyrics, etc.?

Also, if you were to drop in a verse from a previously recorded song into your original song -- is it still 9 cents a song or do you need to get a sample clearance?

Your friend, Tim Sanders

Hartmann said...

Tim: If you are using the essence of the original song you are locked into the 9.1 cents per side to the copyright holder. The precise bar by bar measurements are legislated by copyright law and can be researched. If it is theoriginal melody and lyrics manipulations and custom mkixes don't change anything. If you use a verse from an original song you will owe the mechanical royalty for the sample. All these things can be negotiated but the publisher holds the cards and his choices will prevail.