Psst... Ready to join TalkBass and start posting, make new friends, sell your gear, and more?  Register your free account in 30 seconds.

Copyright Law in covering a song

Discussion in 'Recordings [BG]' started by orskard, Jan 8, 2005.


  1. orskard

    orskard

    Mar 17, 2004
    Indiana
    Hey, im in a band and we do 2 cover songs and i was wondering what the laws are. We play them live and have them on a CD we want to sell. Can we not charge for the CD and get away with out needing a license, does it become illegal once you start to charge for the cover songs on the CD? But we are only making a small number, like 100 or so.

    I went to the US Copy right page and send them an email, but what do you guys know.

    any help would be awessssome

    thank you so much
     
  2. Skit1

    Skit1 Guest

    Jul 2, 2004
    England
    As long as you give credit to the band I think its fine to sell your CD....
     
  3. AlembicPlayer

    AlembicPlayer Im not wearing shorts

    Aug 15, 2004
    Pacific Northwet, USA

    that is incorrect...and is copyright infringement. It could lead to a lawsuit.

    You need to purchase a mechanical license before you produce and distribute ANY copyright work. Do a search for the Harry Fox Agency, BMI, or ASCAP. A Mechanical license for a single tune is under $100.00 USD for up to (last time I did this) 1000 CD produced. You are not required to have any type of license to play the tunes in a club venue...the venue is responsible for those fees.
     
  4. ShamrayBass

    ShamrayBass The Bass Custom Shop

    Dec 29, 2004
    Moscow. RUSSIA
    Strictly legally - As far as the CD goes, you must contact the licencing body of the songwriter and pay a "mechanical licence" royalty for each song you cover... For small runs like that i believe its $35

    from Harry Fox website:

    Do I need a mechanical license?
    If you are manufacturing and distributing copies of a song which you did not write, and you have not already reached an agreement with the song's publisher, you need to obtain a mechanical license. This is required under U.S. Copyright Law, regardless of whether or not you are selling the copies that you made.

    see http://www.harryfox.com/index.jsp

    edit: here is the direct link to buy licences
    http://www.songfile.com/

    AS far as the performace, royalties for that have already been paid, by a blanket payment by the VENUE. (all live venues are supposed to pay a licence fee.)
     
  5. AlembicPlayer

    AlembicPlayer Im not wearing shorts

    Aug 15, 2004
    Pacific Northwet, USA
    I strongly recommend you DO NOT sell copyright work that is not your own. :scowl:
     
  6. ShamrayBass

    ShamrayBass The Bass Custom Shop

    Dec 29, 2004
    Moscow. RUSSIA
    AlembicPlayer : SimulPost! :D
     
  7. AlembicPlayer

    AlembicPlayer Im not wearing shorts

    Aug 15, 2004
    Pacific Northwet, USA

    and we're both right! :D
     
  8. orskard

    orskard

    Mar 17, 2004
    Indiana
    Hey, so i can

    Not put those cover songs on the CD
    OR
    Make the CD but get a license

    the CD only has 5 songs and 2 of them are covers, so i dont know what to do. we where only gunna charge 2 bucks. If i take the Cover songs off then people wont get to hear them and it will only be 3 songs then.

    How about posting songs that are covers on sites such as pure volume, or myspace? What are the laws on that?

    also what is the law if the CDs with cover songs are given away and not charged for.
     
  9. ShamrayBass

    ShamrayBass The Bass Custom Shop

    Dec 29, 2004
    Moscow. RUSSIA
    From a legal point of view, "given away" makes NO difference, and you still need a mechanical licence to legally place the covers on any web site distribution point where people can access them. Some websites already have (or claim to have!) a mechanism for paying mechanical rights, but you still need to verify that with the publisher of the songs in question to avoid any future liability.

    what the mechanical licence DOES is give you THE LEGAL RIGHT to distribute the cover song (in various formats) whether it is for profit or "for free".

    Of course, even distributing "for free" has an inherent 'profit' for you - because it's showcasing your band's talents using a song with proven commercial appeal! (and one that you all know how to play...)

    If you want to reap the benefits from distributing the cover of song, then you have to pay the songwriter(s) for that privilege :)

    (many a band has "made their mark" with fine cover versions of other people's songs)
     
  10. Craig Garfinkel

    Craig Garfinkel

    Aug 25, 2000
    Hartford, CT
    Endorsing Artist: Sadowsky Guitars
    Legally, you do need to obtain a mechanical license to distribute your recording of someone else's material. That license can be obtained through Harry Fox, or directly from the publisher. If you obtain the license from Harry Fox, you will need to pay the statutory rate for all units you manufacture. If you obtain the license directly from the publisher, that rate can be negotiated and you may only need to "pay publishing" on the units you actually sell. Most publishers are delighted to provide licenses directly, thus circumventing HF and avoiding the commissions.

    That's legally. In the real world, if you make 100 copies of a CD with a couple of covers on them, nobody but NOBODY is going to come after you for mechanicals. The statutory rate for a mechanical license is somewhere around 8 cents for the first 5 minutes and a penny or so for each additional minute or part thereof...that's of your version, not the original. And of course, that's per CD distributed. That means a five minute cover put on 100 CDs you failed to get a license for would screw the publisher out of $8. Nobody's gonna take you to court over that.
     
  11. orskard

    orskard

    Mar 17, 2004
    Indiana
    So do you think its fine to sell the CD with 2 cover songs on it. Knowing that it is illegal. My guitarists says that its fine since its just among friends and at shows and not like at best buy or anything like that.

    We still arent sure what to do.
     
  12. Craig Garfinkel

    Craig Garfinkel

    Aug 25, 2000
    Hartford, CT
    Endorsing Artist: Sadowsky Guitars
    Well I wouldn't say it's "fine" because the right thing to do would be to get the mechanical license. You can do this online here at Songfile http://www.songfile.com/ , the Harry Fox Agency online licensing site.

    There were two cover tunes on my band's last CD. We manufactured 1000 units, so the total licensing fee I paid for both songs was around $175. For your 100 units the cost will be far less.

    Again, you won't "get caught" or suffer major consequences if you don't. But why not start your recording career by "doing the right thing"? You'll feel good doing it, and you'll learn a little about the business of music in the process.

    BTW, what are the two covers, and by what artists?
     
  13. spidersbass

    spidersbass

    Nov 29, 2004
    Downtown L.A.
    hmmm, what if the covers are changed up a bit, like changed the key or completely changed some parts... but you can still tell its a cover by a certain artist... you still need a licence or whatever?
     
  14. Craig Garfinkel

    Craig Garfinkel

    Aug 25, 2000
    Hartford, CT
    Endorsing Artist: Sadowsky Guitars
    Another note...in order to get a mechanical license from the HFA you need to pay for a minimum of 500 units (even if you're only distributing 100), and the newest statutory rate is 8.5 cents for the first 5 minutes and 1.65 cents for each additional minute or fraction thereof, so it will cost a minimum of $42.50 for a license.
     
  15. Craig Garfinkel

    Craig Garfinkel

    Aug 25, 2000
    Hartford, CT
    Endorsing Artist: Sadowsky Guitars
    You betcha.
     
  16. orskard

    orskard

    Mar 17, 2004
    Indiana
    Death Letter - White Stripes...but THAT was a cover of a Son House song.

    Have Love Will Travel - The Black Keys....another double cover, it was origanally a Sonics song i believe.

    Total time. 6 minutes and 4 seconds.
     
  17. orskard

    orskard

    Mar 17, 2004
    Indiana
    If i did my math correct it will cost us $21.55 to get the license.

    ill talk to the guys tomorrow, hopefully we will go the legal way. Plus once you sell 11 CDs its paid for.
     
  18. Skit1

    Skit1 Guest

    Jul 2, 2004
    England
    Good job you didnt listen to me... :bag:
     
  19. Craig Garfinkel

    Craig Garfinkel

    Aug 25, 2000
    Hartford, CT
    Endorsing Artist: Sadowsky Guitars
    You're forgetting that the minimum number of units for a license is 500, even if you produce less.

    For the song that's 6 minutes 4 seconds, the formula would be $0.085 x 500 = $42.50, plus $0.0165 x 2 (minutes or part thereof over 5) x 500 = $16.50...$42.50 + 16.50 = $59.00.

    I did a search for you for both tunes, and it's inconclusive to me whether or not you can obtain a license from Harry Fox for either tune. "Death Letter" has several possible matches, all being traditional blues songs, one attributed to Son House and another to Leadbelly. Check the CD of the artist you're covering and see who is listed as the composer and publisher for verification.

    "Have Love Will Travel" comes up with The Brandos as the original artist and Richard Berry as the composer. I doubt it's the tune by the same name originally done by Olivia Newton John. :confused:

    You may be covering another band's version of a cover, but licensing is always obtained from the original composer and publisher.

    BTW, did you record this yourself or in a commercial studio, and are you burning CDs yourself or are you having a commercial duplicator make copies for you? Is there artwork, a label..etc.?

    If this is a blank CD record-at-home project with no "official" release...don't bother getting a license.

    And live in good conscience.
     
  20. orskard

    orskard

    Mar 17, 2004
    Indiana
    Hey, we recorded it with my friend at his house, and it is a Blank CD production. SO does that mean just forget the license, and i see my error in the math.