Looking for Public Domain help

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Scrybe
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Re: Looking for Public Domain help

Post by Scrybe » August 13th, 2009, 9:38 am

kent_eh wrote:As far as I can tell from my reading, a song has to be pre 1922 to be considered public domain in the USA, but other countries have their own rules.
Ricochet wrote:Robert Johnson's songs are NOT in the public domain. They've been very aggressively defended against copyright violations. Most of the other old blues numbers, and indeed most songs from the 20th Century, are still under copyright. Due to some quirks of fate and copyright law, Happy Birthday/Good Morning To You, originally written in 1893, remains under copyright. Most anything older than that I think can be safely assumed not to be, in the U.S.

Yeah, I wondered about this, too. Over here, I thought copyright ran out after 50 years, as there was a big debate a few years back about how Evlis's song would suddenly find themselves being re-released by small labels, covered, sampled, etc., because they would pass the 50 year mark. But it hasn't happened. I think the copy got renewed. Getting tracks that bypass the copyright laws of every country might be a bit tricky.

And iirc, when Clapton covered Crossroads with Cream, it was published as a traditional song arranged by E.C. and thus didn't pay the Robert Johnson estate for use of his material.
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Re: Looking for Public Domain help

Post by Elecktrablue » August 13th, 2009, 9:49 am

Ricochet wrote:Robert Johnson's songs are NOT in the public domain. They've been very aggressively defended against copyright violations. Most of the other old blues numbers, and indeed most songs from the 20th Century, are still under copyright. Due to some quirks of fate and copyright law, Happy Birthday/Good Morning To You, originally written in 1893, remains under copyright. Most anything older than that I think can be safely assumed not to be, in the U.S.
Actually, Robert Johnson's works became public domain in 2008!! According to Wikipedia's Questions and Answers:

Q: Why Robert Johnson is not in public domain?

A: Upon a songwriter's death, copyright ownership passes to his heirs, so Johnson's work was the property of his half sister, as he did properly copyright the songs while living. However, 2008 is the 70th anniversary of his death, and according to copyright law, the copyright expires 70 years after the artist's death, so wait a month and they will be public domain.

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Why_Robert_Jo ... lic_domain


From Wikipedia:
Copyright laws vary between countries, and thus a work may be in the public domain in one country, but still be copyrighted in another country. There are international treaties such as the Berne Convention that set some minimum standards, but individual countries are free to go beyond these minimums. A general rule of thumb is that if the creator of a work has been dead for more than 70 years, his works are in the public domain in the country the creator was a citizen of and in the country where the work was first published. If the work is anonymous or a collaborative work (e.g. an encyclopedia), it is typically in the public domain 70 years after the date of the first publication.

Many countries use such a copyright term of 70 years. A notable exception is the U.S. Due to historical circumstances, the U.S. has more complex rules. In the United States, copyright generally lasts:

for works first published before 1978: until 95 years after the first publication, and
for works first published 1978 or later: until 70 years after the author's death, or for anonymous works or work made for hire, until the shorter of 95 years since the first publication or 120 years since the creation of the work.
Works published before 1923 are in the public domain.
For works created before 1978 but only published 1978 or later, there are some special rules. These terms apply in the U.S. also for foreign works.

Also from Wikipedia:

Anything published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain. Anything published before January 1, 1964 and not renewed is in the public domain. Anything published before March 1, 1989 with no copyright notice ("©", "Copyright" or "Copr.") plus the year of publication (may be omitted in some cases) plus the copyright owner (or pseudonym) is in the public domain.

Or you can look at it this way ... going by the 95 years after the first publication, since it is now 2009, anything prior to 1914 is public domain.
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Re: Looking for Public Domain help

Post by greybeard » August 13th, 2009, 10:09 am

According to the US Copyright Office, the 95 years is not blanket, there are conditions attached, namely Public law 105-298:

"Works Originally Created and Published or Registered
before January 1, 1978

Under the law in effect before 1978, copyright was secured
either on the date a work was published with a copyright
notice or on the date of registration if the work was registered
in unpublished form. In either case, the copyright
endured for a first term of 28 years from the date it was
secured. During the last (28th) year of the first term, the
copyright was eligible for renewal. The Copyright Act of 1976
extended the renewal term from 28 to 47 years for copyrights
that were subsisting on January 1, 1978, or for pre-1978
copyrights restored under the Uruguay Round Agreements
Act (URAA), making these works eligible for a total term of
protection of 75 years. Public Law 105-298, enacted on October
27, 1998, further extended the renewal term of copyrights
still subsisting on that date by an additional 20 years, providing
for a renewal term of 67 years and a total term of protection
of 95 years."

In other words, any copyright that had lapsed before 1.1.78 would not be extended any further by the new law.

The Public law 105-298 extended copyright extension from 28 to 47 years for any copyright existing on that date - those that ran out before then only had a total life of 56 years (28 + 28). Therefore anything copyrighted before 1.1 1922 would automatically fall into the public domain - according to the Copyright Office.

Source: Copyright Basics (pdf)
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Re: Looking for Public Domain help

Post by Elecktrablue » August 13th, 2009, 10:25 am

Very interesting read!

But, if you're going by the 95 year rule (exceptions excluded) it would be anything before 1914. So, how do you come up with the 1922 year? From 2009, 1922 is only 87 years. I know the law is confusing, but I think we need to come up with a general consensus otherwise we're just wasting our time and David's time giving him a bunch of stuff he doesn't need or can't use.

David, what do YOU know about public domain, copyright, etc...? We don't want to accidentally get you into hot water with the copyright people!!
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Re: Looking for Public Domain help

Post by Ricochet » August 13th, 2009, 10:33 am

"A cheerful heart is good medicine."

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Re: Looking for Public Domain help

Post by greybeard » August 13th, 2009, 10:46 am

The law stipulates a "base date" of 1.1.1978. Any copyright which expired before 1.1.78, had a total life of 56 years - 28 + 28. Take 56 off 1978 and you have 1922. If a work was copyrighted on 1.1.1923, it could still be existent on 1.1.78 (original 28 years + 28 year extension) and therefore, get an additional 19 years copyright (the extension of 47 years instead of 28). That would give it an expiry date of 1.1.1998 instead of 1.1.1979

As I understand it the Uraguay agreement only covered music which originated abroad, so any "native" works would be excluded.

The Public law only extended copyright to 95 years for works "still subsisting on that date (i.e. October 27, 1998). In the above example, the work would expire on 1.1.98 and not get the further extension to 95 years in total.
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Re: Looking for Public Domain help

Post by Elecktrablue » August 13th, 2009, 11:11 am

That's precisely why we need to come up with something definitive in the way of what is actually public domain.

I ran across "The Roud Broadside Index" which lists over 140,000 songs that are in the public domain. There's also "The Roud Folksong Index" that lists over 160,000 songs, also public domain, but they're difficult to work with. Check them out and you'll see what I mean.

I also found this:


WHEN U.S. WORKS PASS INTO THE PUBLIC DOMAIN
By Lolly Gasaway University of North Carolina

Definition: A public domain work is a creative work that is not protected by copyright and
which may be freely used by everyone. The reasons that the work is not protected include:
(1) the term of copyright for the work has expired; (2) the author failed to satisfy statutory
formalities to perfect the copyright or (3) the work is a work of the U.S. Government.
Image
1 Term of joint works is measured by life of the longest-lived author.
2 Works for hire, anonymous and pseudonymous works also have this term. 17 U.S.C. § 302(c).
3 Under the 1909 Act, works published without notice went into the public domain upon publication. Works published without notice between 1-1-78 and 3-1-89, effective date of the Berne Convention Implementation Act, retained copyright only if efforts to correct the accidental omission of notice was made within five years, such as by placing notice on unsold copies. 17 U.S.C. § 405. (Notes courtesy of Professor Tom Field, Franklin Pierce Law Center and Lolly Gasaway)

Chart may be freely duplicated or linked to for nonprofit purposes. No permission needed.
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Re: Looking for Public Domain help

Post by Elecktrablue » August 13th, 2009, 11:17 am

greybeard wrote:The law stipulates a "base date" of 1.1.1978. Any copyright which expired before 1.1.78, had a total life of 56 years - 28 + 28. Take 56 off 1978 and you have 1922. If a work was copyrighted on 1.1.1923, it could still be existent on 1.1.78 (original 28 years + 28 year extension) and therefore, get an additional 19 years copyright (the extension of 47 years instead of 28). That would give it an expiry date of 1.1.1998 instead of 1.1.1979

As I understand it the Uraguay agreement only covered music which originated abroad, so any "native" works would be excluded.

The Public law only extended copyright to 95 years for works "still subsisting on that date (i.e. October 27, 1998). In the above example, the work would expire on 1.1.98 and not get the further extension to 95 years in total.
You're absolutely right! I just found that myself! In my little yellow chart! It states that if it was published before 1923 it is in public domain forever. Thank you! Now I can get off of the computer and do my dishes!
:D

(Don't you just hate it when people (me) keep asking why, where, what, when, who and how? :D )
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Re: Looking for Public Domain help

Post by Chris C » August 13th, 2009, 2:43 pm

Great work on the copyright research EB and Greybeard. Fascinating reading.

Anybody mentioned House of The Rising Sun yet? - The Animals and heaps of others.

As the intention of the potential publisher here is presumably to use the recognition generated by more recent recordings, without having to pay the more famous artists anything (I'd guess it's OK to mention the names of the list of artists concerned, provided you don't copy their particular arrangement) then maybe the best way to go is to start with lists of songs that are known to be ‘traditional' and out of copyright, and just run your eye down the list and see which titles ring a bell.

When I've done that at sites for traditional Irish and Scottish music, for instance,, the mere fact that I've heard of a title almost always means that I'm familiar with a reasonably recent recording, and that's why I know it. It doesn't take long to scan down an index. (Clearly that doesn't apply to the two that EB found though! :shock: )

I've found this one to be good:

Traditional music Library

There are many existing sites for traditional Irish and Scottish songs, and probably American, English, Australian , etc too.

There are also songbooks full of similar material. I've got one that cost a mere $20 - in hardback- but which has 270 pages of songs grouped under ten different categories.

The Great Family Songbook

You can search the index for that book at the site linked to (Amazon) and it has numerous titles that have been successfully recorded by many artists over the years. The majority appear to be 'traditional' or out of copyright.
Some great songs such as Careless Love (which apparently artists from Janis Joplin to Bob Dylan have has a crack at) are listed as ‘traditional' as are most of the works in the book. Yet, some songwriters are credited (including Leadbelly for Goodnight Irene, even though he apparently heard it from an older version. Surprisingly Dylan's Blowing in the WInd appears in the book, and there's no way that would have been out of copyright, whereas most of them apparently were.

It seems that there's probably no quick way around researching songs pretty much on case by case basis to see if the version we know (as in the example of Happy Birthday) actually is legally copyrighted by somebody or not.

Cheers,

Chris

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Re: Looking for Public Domain help

Post by Diceman » August 13th, 2009, 3:14 pm

Elvis had a couple of hits with "Love Me Tender" a reworded version of "Aura Lee" and "It's Now or Never" which is the same tune as "O Sole Mio." Where do those songs fit into this scenario ?
If I claim to be a wise man , it surely means that I don't know .

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Re: Looking for Public Domain help

Post by dhodge » August 13th, 2009, 3:26 pm

Those are technically copyrighted and wouldn't work. Aura Lee is usable, Love Me Tender isn't. Interesting, isn't it?

There was a whole practice of "songwriting" where managers and publishers and songwriters themselves would angle to get their name on a credit in order to get a bit of the royalties. One may argue that it wasn't necessarily a huge piece of the pie, in some instances not even a taste, but all the little bits add up over time. We may not hear about it or see it as often these days, but I suspect it's still happening.

Belated thanks to everyone for their suggestions, not to mention all the discussion. It's being very helpful.

Peace

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Re: Looking for Public Domain help

Post by Elecktrablue » August 13th, 2009, 3:34 pm

Those are 2 great resources, too, Chris! If it wasn't music night I'd look more closely at them! Ah, well, tomorrow's another day!

Oh! And, thanks!

:D
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Re: Looking for Public Domain help

Post by greybeard » August 13th, 2009, 10:35 pm

Chris, House of the Rising Sun is one of those cases that show how complicated the whole business is. The original song, with original words and original tune is PD - it originates in the 19th century.

The Animal's version is copyright - the arrangement and changed wording date from the 60's. There is also a version by Raveling Blues (probably a misprint of Traveling Blues), which is somewhat more up-tempo than the Animal's version and is also, almost certainly, copyright of the artist - in parallel with, but totally separate from, the Animals!

Edit:

I've just found another PD song, that's been recorded by all sorts of people, including Eric Clapton - Nobody knows you when you're down and out.

It also seems that Big Bill Broonzy's "Baby please don't go" is PD.
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Re: Looking for Public Domain help

Post by Chris C » August 14th, 2009, 12:44 am

Thanks Graham. :)

It seems that any publisher who wants to try and use 'traditional' or 'out of copyright' material has quite a thorny path to tread. Unless you research each song fairly thoroughly, on a case by case basis, it appears that it can be hard to know if the version you think is free is in fact 100% safe to use.

Ultimately these matters can be argued out in court when there's disagreement on whether the version you've used is too close to one that somebody has established protection for. But is there a simple way of checking? Is there a searchable archive somewhere that lists Public Domain material in such a away that you can compare versions and arrangements to see where the significant changes lie, from a legal perspective?

Lyric changes should be fairly easy to spot - but that assumes you have managed to obtain certifiably accurate copies of the relevant versions that you're trying to compare... and musical arrangements might even require the opinion of some kind of specialist in music law to make a judgement on exactly how and where the lines are drawn.... :shock:


David, can you shed any light on how you and your publisher will go about determining whether something is fair game or not, please?

Cheers,

Chris

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Re: Looking for Public Domain help

Post by dhodge » August 14th, 2009, 5:45 am

We're still working that out ourselves, Chris. Ultimately, the burden of proof is on me. I'm the one doing the writing so I'm the one who has to know one way or the other.

Peace

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