I apologize if this has been addressed in previous threads. Sometimes
one just does not pay attention to things until one is asked about them
or suddenly needs to know.
A friend of mine is looking into the possibility of privately publishing
a CD featuring vintage recordings from as early as the 1910s and as late
as 1936. The vast majority of the compositions featured on the
recordings are pre-1923 and, therefore, are in the public domain and not
subject to the need for mechanical royalties. The few compositions that
are post 1923 are European in origin. Most of the recordings were
originally released on major American labels such as Victor and
My understanding is that, in Europe, sound recordings over 50 years old
are considered to be in the public domain and, therefore, getting
permission to reissue the old recordings on CD would not be much of an
issue if it were being done over there. My friend, however, is based
here in the USA and, for obvious reasons, it would be much easier for
him to publish the recordings here as well. Is there anyone here who
could provide information about how he would need to go about obtaining
necessary permission to include the sound recordings on the CD? Is this
usually a matter of just getting an official written ok from someone?
If so, how difficult it to get and who should one contact? Or do the
recording companies typically require a fee based license along the
lines of what one would pay to organizations such as ASCAP or Harry
Fox? If so, are the fees pretty standard or are they negotiated on a
case by case basis?
In practical terms - do most people who reissue obscure vintage
recordings here in the USA even bother to seek permission? What do
American based reissues labels such as The Old Masters and Take Two do?
Do they obtain permission for every recording? Or are they too small
and is the market for '20s and '30s recordings too marginal for them to
even show up on the big recording conglomerates' radar screen?
Regarding the European compositions that may still be under copyright,
would one be able to get mechanical licensing through the Harry Fox
Agency or would one have to work with a similar organization in Europe?
Is it possible that the composition could be still in copyright in
Europe but in the pubic domain in the USA or vice versa?
Any information in this area would be appreciated.