Copyright of songs is totally different from copyright of sound
recordings.  Different copyrights, different law.

The internet has proved to be a kind of "Wild West" for copyright issues,
but Joel is right--it is not wide open "anything goes."


On Tue, May 23, 2017 at 3:18 PM, Joel Ackerman <[log in to unmask]>

> I am also a retired attorney; some experience with copyrights.  Putting a
> copyrighted item on a free website is as much an infringement as selling
> it.  I have a great article by Scott Adams (author of the Dilbert cartoons)
> on this point.  You need to check whether the songs themselves were
> copyrighted and, if so, whether the copyrights are still in force.
> Joel Ackerman
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List [mailto:
> [log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of John Haley
> Sent: Tuesday, May 23, 2017 11:47 AM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Another copyright question
> I hesitate to weigh in on this topic, because it is a big one.  But, with
> all due respect to Steve, everything is not under copyright.  For starters,
> US federal copyright law did not exist for sound recordings until 1972, so
> there are only state law concerns regarding all such pre-1972 material. (we
> are talking only US law here).  What is dubbed "state law copyright law"
> exists in only a handful of states, and it is really a branch of property
> law, not true copyright law, which is all federal. The state law is fairly
> pernicious, IMHO (I'm a retired lawyer who has studied this stuff for
> years), and in the case of NY state law, ill-founded but still there.  The
> law of copyright as it pertains to recordings really needs to be
> federalized by Congress, to get rid of the patchwork of inconsistent and
> unclear state law.  Given the state of Congress today, I do not look for
> anything like that to be happening anytime soon, and given what is going
> on, perhaps it is best that they don't, at least for now.
> The words "public domain" get misused a lot.  For something to reach PD in
> the US, it must pass thru copyright protection.  Pre-1972 recordings, which
> have never had any federal protection, are not in PD and cannot reach it,
> because they never were copyrighted.  They are protected by neither federal
> copyright law nor PD.  In general, PD has been nibbled away over the years
> such that it barely exists in the US, at least in any of our lifetimes.
> As for record company lawyers, my (long) experience is that very few IP
> lawyers understand much about copyright for sound recordings, and the
> easiest legal opinion to give someone is always "no," especially where the
> lawyer doesn't really know and the answers are not readily ascertainable.
> Big record companies will just take the view that they own everything in
> sight--that is plainly incorrect.  And incorrect assumptions are very
> plentiful in this area.
> The law of the rest of the world is much, much clearer when it comes to
> copyright of sound recordings.  Such law is generally covered by statute,
> and and those statutes are reasonably clear, embracing a rational approach
> to PD that is alien to our US law.
> Best,
> John Haley
> .
> On Tue, May 23, 2017 at 1:21 PM, Gary A. Galo <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> > I thought that the Edison and Aeolian/Vocalion catalogs were public
> > domain, because the owners declared them to be so. My memory could be
> > faulty, also. Tim Brooks would know.
> >
> > Gary
> >
> >
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List [mailto:
> > [log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Steven Smolian
> > Sent: Tuesday, May 23, 2017 12:45 PM
> > To: [log in to unmask]
> > Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Another copyright question
> >
> > As far as I know, just about everything from 1877 to the present is
> > protected in one way or another.  There are orphan labels with
> > uncertain ownership.
> >
> > In my opinion, putting commercial sound recordings on a web site has a
> > greater potential down than upside.  Other opinions may differ.
> >
> > There is a choice to be made between what you can probably get away
> > with and the probable liabilities, should things turn nasty.  People
> > do this all the time.  People acting as employees of institutions  are
> > putting their institutions at risk.  Institutions have lawyers on
> > staff to advise.  My opinion.
> >
> > Steve Smolian
> >
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List [mailto:
> > [log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of James Roth
> > Sent: Monday, May 22, 2017 12:53 PM
> > To: [log in to unmask]
> > Subject: [ARSCLIST] Another copyright question
> >
> > Hello again
> >
> > I have an LP made by A.B.C.    (J. Naftali Records). Of singer Albert
> Ortiz
> > (The Yiddish Golden Voice of)
> > I need to know if there's any chance of copyright issues.
> >
> > Might there be a list of labels that are definitely not copyrighted
> > anymore.
> > Of course, there's are the artists that might still be alive and
> > copyrighted.
> >
> > I don't intend to make copies or sell them, just to put it on a free
> > website.
> >
> > Regards,
> > Ben
> >