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Recording songs by people who no longer exist

Discussion in 'Studio Lounge' started by Halifaxsoundguy, Jun 26, 2007.

  1. Halifaxsoundguy

    Halifaxsoundguy Active Member

    A good friend of mine passed away about 9 years ago, he was a true mentor for all my guitar playing. Before he died he had talked to me about doing a solo for a recording of his. That never happened. Last year I was listening to his old demo tapes and decided to remake that song and add the solo. I got part way though then put it on the backburner. Now i'm working on it again.

    The song is sounding really good and the mix is incredible and I think it is a real tribute for my friend, my gut tells me that he would be proud. His family on the other hand is upset at me saying I have no right to do this. He never had any song at studio quality until my version. He wrote the song about 6 months before his death and alot of his friends don't even know it exists.

    I know I don't own the song in anyway but I want to share his legacy with the world. His family aside, what are the rights associated with this? What are the limitations to making a song like this?
  2. cfaalm

    cfaalm Active Member

    Did his family elaborate on your "no right to do this"? Do they realize that it was your friends wish the song would be finished? I can imagine they want to hear it before it gets out.

    As long as you do not use any of the original recordings, I think they cannot stand in your way. You will only be mentioned as the arranger and his family has probably inherited the rights to that song.
  3. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    You have to make it clear what you are doing here. Are you just recording your own version of a song he wrote, or are you using his old demo tapes. If it is the first, then you are OK legally (at least in the USA). There is a "compulsory mechanical license" that allows you to record the song without the permission of the copyright holder as long as you pay a set mechanical license fee.
  4. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Provided of course that he had it covered by a rights organization like Harry Fox. There are lots of songs that are not on the Harry Fox agency database and you can't pay for something that is not covered. If this was a demo I personally doubt he had it listed. All the rights to the song go to the family upon the death of the composer UNLESS other arrangements have been made in advance. If they are upset about you redoing one of his songs you may find your self in court if they feel strongly enough about it. What is their major objection?
  5. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    I'm not a lawyer and I don't even play one on TV. But I think that the compulsory license applies even if they have not registered the song. (If you have a right to record the song when they have asserted copyright protection, how can you not have the right to record when they have not asserted protection?) I think there is a form you have to fill out saying that you have made a good faith effort to determine the copyright holder and will pay the owner if ownership is established.

    Ideally, of course, you'd like to work things out with the family in advance. Even if you are legally entitled to record the song, you don't want to be in a fight with someone who you have to report royalties to. Still the compulsory license is a strong card in your hand.

    If I remember correctly, CDbaby has one of the best tutorials on copyrights that I've seen on the web. You might want to check them out.
  6. Halifaxsoundguy

    Halifaxsoundguy Active Member

    His mom is the one against it but she still hasn't really gotten over the whole event be it 9 years later. To her the music is all she has left.

    My recording is 100% new and contains nothing from the demo tapes. I don't think my friend ever copyrighted his work. I think his demo tape is just 'proof of design'.
  7. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Well, my understanding is that the law is on your side. Whoever the copyright holder is (presumably his heirs) has to grant mechanical rights at the rate of 9.1 cents per copy of the song sold. Here is the link from CDBaby.

    Is his mother the sole heir? You might encourage others who have an interest to get the song published so that the ownership of the rights is clear. Maybe his mother will come around when she understands the legal situation.
  8. DeafEdison

    DeafEdison Guest

    What a shame. It's too bad she doesn't understand that the music will not live on unless there's someone to hear it.

    Keep us posted
  9. jonyoung

    jonyoung Well-Known Member

    This phrase says it all. Anyone can record someone else's copyrighted work by filing the appropriate paperwork, which clearly defines who the copyright holder is and who gets paid a prescribed royalty. Doesn't mean the copyright holder won't bitch about it, but it's completely legal.

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