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montysimmons
montysimmons, Patent Prosecutor
Category: Intellectual Property Law
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Experience:  Electrical Engineer, South Carolina Attorney, Member of US Patent Bar
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I have some questions pertaining to music/copyright law, if

Resolved Question:

I have some questions pertaining to music/copyright law, if any. I have seen conflicting reports and answers on the internet, so am wondering what is correct.

1. If music/songs are obtained, either free from YouTube/the internet, or via purchase on a CD, can those be used by a DJ playing at a wedding or other similar event without any permission or license, etc. Some information I found said you would need permission from the artist or company, and others say there is no such law in the United States for a DJ to use them at a wedding.

2. For music obtained as in the first question, can someone re-mix that music and burn it to a CD and legally sell the re-mixed version without any permission or worries, or what is legally required to do this as well?

3. If any type of copyright permission is require for either of the questions above, it there some "collective" place (like maybe a general licensing company) that could be utilized that would be easier and less expensive than seeking permission for each individual piece of music?

Thank you.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Intellectual Property Law
Expert:  montysimmons replied 3 years ago.

I will draft an answer and get back to you within an hour.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
ok thanks...will watch for your response.
Expert:  replied 3 years ago.
First, Some Background Information on Copyright

INFRINGEMNT
"In a copyright infringement case, the plaintiff must show:
(i) ownership of a valid copyright; and
(ii) unauthorized copying of the copyrighted work."

Jorgensen v. Epic/Sony Records, 351 F.3d 46, 51 (2d Cir. 2003).


PUBLIC DOMAIN

If a work is in the public domain, there is not copyright, and ths, one can use it and modify such work without permission.

Here is a link to a document that is very helpful to determine if a work is in the public domain.

http://copyright.cornell.edu/resources/docs/copyrightterm.pdf


For example, using the document:

IF a work is:

(1) Registered in the US; or
(2) First Published in the US
(3) And the date of publication was before 1923, the work is in the public domain.

Just one category . . . the documents list several.


MUSIC COPYRIGHTS

(1) A musical composition consists of music, including any accompanying words, and is normally registered as a work of the performing arts.

(2) A sound recording results from the fixation of a series of musical, spoken, or other sounds.

(3) Copyright in a sound recording is not the same as, or a substitute for, copyright in the underlying musical composition.

(4) Lyrics refer to the words of a song or other musical composition.

(5) Music refers to the melody, rhythm and harmony of a musical composition. It is important to note the difference between music (that is, the musical lines in a musical composition) and a sound recording (that is, the actual sounds of the musical work fixed in recorded form, for example, on a CD or digitally in an mp3 file).



YOU ASK

1. If music/songs are obtained, either free from YouTube/the internet, or via purchase on a CD, can those be used by a DJ playing at a wedding or other similar event without any permission or license, etc. Some information I found said you would need permission from the artist or company, and others say there is no such law in the United States for a DJ to use them at a wedding.


ANSWER


Well, if the music is in the public domain, the music can be used and modified without permission.

If one obtains music from YouTube, one may or may not have a license to use such music. If the music is public domain music, no problem. If such work is no in the public domain, then one must have permission or a license to legally copy, play, and modify the music.

Now if you purchase music on a CD, how you can use the CD depends on the rights purchased with the CD. Typically, when one purchases a music CD, one only purchases the right to non-public use/performance of the music – both the sound recording and the lyrics.

Thus, technically, if you use your private CD collection to DJ a wedding for pay, you would need a license or permission to play each CD. Unlikely one would get caught but such is the law on the issue.

That said, the owner of the establishment where the music is played is the one that needs the license or permission. For example, if you DJ at a bar, the Bar owner is the one response to get the license, not you.


THERE ARE EXEMPTIONS

See “The Fairness in Music Licensing Act of 1998” (for broadcast radio or television)

This exemption is not applicable to CDs, streaming audio or computer sound files (MP3)

Basically, if you serve food, have less than 3,750 sq. feet, and do not charge your customers for listening to the music, they you do not need a license.


YOU ASK

2. For music obtained as in the first question, can someone re-mix that music and burn it to a CD and legally sell the re-mixed version without any permission or worries, or what is legally required to do this as well?


ANSWER

If the music is in the public domain, you can use and modify as you chose. Further, if you modify music in the public domain and add new artistic expression to the work, YOU now enjoy ownership of a copyright to the “new artistic expression” (but not the old stuff) and can register your copyright in same.

You do not need to register the copyright, such is simply a good idea. As add copyright notice (not required but good idea).

If the music is not in the public domain, one does need permission to modify the work and remix. Such would include the sound recording and the lyrics.



YOU ASK

3. If any type of copyright permission is require for either of the questions above, it there some "collective" place (like maybe a general licensing company) that could be utilized that would be easier and less expensive than seeking permission for each individual piece of music?


ANSWER

YES. One can get a “blanket license” to play a performing rights organizations library of music.

See ASCAP, BMI, SESAC


http://www.ascap.com/licensing/license_request.aspx


http://www.bmi.com/licensing


http://www.sesac.com/Licensing/obtainlicense.aspx


For independent digital performance rights
http://www.soundexchange.com/


If you have additional questions, please ask.

Thanks
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