Intellectual Property Law

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I am writing my memoirs, in a novel form and want to include…

Customer Question
I am writing my...

I am writing my memoirs, in a novel form and want to include some lyrics to the old Negro Spirituals which were for the most past written during slavery and later arranged and sung by contemporary artists. Who has copyright/publication rights to these songs, such as ""Changed Muh Name," Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," "Soon I Will Be Done With the Troubles of the World<" etc.?

Lawyer's Assistant: Do you have a registration record?

What is that?

Lawyer's Assistant: Have you talked to a local attorney? Has anything been filed in court?

No

Lawyer's Assistant: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?

That's it

Submitted: 1 month ago.Category: Intellectual Property Law
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3/20/2018
IP Lawyer: Legal Eagle, Lawyer replied 1 month ago
Legal Eagle
Legal Eagle, Lawyer
Category: Intellectual Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 10,201
Experience: Licensed to practice before state and federal court
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Hello! I am a licensed attorney, admitted to practice in state and federal court. I have a nearly 100% satisfaction rating (click here for more info) so all that means is that you can count on me to help today. Because I want to provide you with the most accurate answer possible, do you mind if I take a moment to review your question?

Please keep in mind that our conversation does not include an attorney-client relationship and this is for general information purposes only.

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IP Lawyer: Legal Eagle, Lawyer replied 1 month ago

Thanks so much for your patience.

In your case, it seems like there is an issue of copyright infringement, but it’s important to analyze the relevant law first. As you may know, Title 17 of the U.S. Code protects a wide variety of original works including photographs, writings, sound recordings,etc. But there are some exceptions and one of them is the issue of public domain.

There are four common ways that works arrive in the public domain:

  • the copyright has expired
  • the copyright owner failed to follow copyright renewal rules
  • the copyright owner deliberately places it in the public domain, known as “dedication,” or
  • copyright law does not protect this type of work.

So, if these are old Negro Spirituals, then these things have probably gone long past 70 years that a copyright is good for. Accordingly, you should check the copyright office to see if anyone owns them. If not, these songs are in the public domain and should be free for you to use the lyrics.

What other questions did you have for me today that I can help you out with:-)?

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