On Wed, Mar 23, 2011 at 12:56 AM, Bob Olhsson <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> There'd be a big problem if an owner or their estate finds out and sues
> The owner is a combination of whoever made the recording and all of the
> people who were recorded.
It's a bit more complicated. Most state unauthorized duplication statutes
assign the "ownership" of a pre-1972 recording to the owner of a master
recording, defined explicitly as the physical object to which duplicates
trace their origin. Meanwhile, *Ingram v. Bowers *(1932) has been
interpreted as establishing a precedent that performers implicitly conveyed
any common law copyright in a recording to the entity that fixed it, even if
this wasn't spelled out in a contract, and that this copyright "became
embodied in the matrices" and "passed with the property in them" to any
third party. This leads to an odd situation in which the current owner of a
unique original lacquer recording could indeed be the "owner" of a kind
of copyright in it in many jurisdictions. (Also, when a company
intentionally discarded or destroyed its physical master recordings, it
presumably lost this particular type of protection -- as e.g. with the
Victor Camden warehouse catastrophe.)
But that's not to say that the recordist and performer might not have rights
in the recording too. For example, the California Civil Code gives a
copyright to the *creators* of a recording, just as Bob
Ohlsson describes (unlike the California Penal Code, which gives it to the
owner of the physical master -- this stuff is actually quite
contradictory). Different bits of law define ownership in different ways
that don't always coincide with each other.
More importantly for Phil Nohl's question, none of this has anything to do
with underlying compositions. He might be able to get away with doing
things with recordings of unpublished compositions, but he wouldn't be
eligible for any kind of copyright in the compositions themselves, which
seems to have been the gist of his question. The composer or an heir could
still obtain a copyright, however, as happened with the Robert Johnson songs
long after the fact.
Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer, and this isn't legal advice.