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The legalities of music publishing

GUEST,Calum 28 Mar 13 - 01:40 PM
Leadfingers 29 Mar 13 - 01:28 PM
matt milton 29 Mar 13 - 01:37 PM
GUEST,Calum 03 Apr 13 - 02:37 PM
Richard Bridge 03 Apr 13 - 05:58 PM
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Subject: The legalities of music publishing
From: GUEST,Calum
Date: 28 Mar 13 - 01:40 PM

(I'm not sure if I've posted this twice. If so, apologies!)

Hi all,

I'd appreciate any guidance those who have trodden a similar path might be able to give. First, the backstory.

In 1971, or close enough, someone (we'll call him Duncan, for that was his name) published a book of tunes, partly his own compositions, partly his own settings of traditional tunes, and partly tunes written by other people.

The publisher screwed him over somewhat, refusing to pay royalties or allow him to republish after it went out of print. Karma intervened in a minor way and the publisher was wound up in 1991. At this stage, nobody has any of the legal documentation pertaining to the publisher and their dealings with anybody. Duncan died in 1999.

I would now like to republish this book, ideally via a self-publishing service like Lulu or similar, on a non-profit basis (to cover expenses and some charitable donations). Duncan's son is the holder of the copyright of Duncan's tunes and arrangements, and he is happy to give his permission for the project.

Now, questions!

What are the legal necessities (in the UK) of doing this? Of course at a minimum I need to get permission from other contributors. What about tunes subsequently republished elsewhere? Do I need their publishers permissions? Do I pay statutory royalties in the same way as recordings? If I can't trace a copyright holder (many are dead and buried), would it be reasonable to include their work and accumulate a reserve in case they subsequently show up? What else have I not thought of?

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Subject: RE: The legalities of music publishing
From: Leadfingers
Date: 29 Mar 13 - 01:28 PM

Shame to let this fall off the page without ANY response

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Subject: RE: The legalities of music publishing
From: matt milton
Date: 29 Mar 13 - 01:37 PM

1. you may not necessarily have to get permission from other contributors - depends what the original copyright was. However, it's highly likely that you will. And, more to the point, it's morally correct that you do.

2. You don't need any permission as far as tunes subsequently published elsewhere goes

3. How you imburse contributors is between you and the contributors: if you decide you want to offer them royalties that's between you and them and would be a conventional way of going about things. But it's not "statutory". From a publisher's point of view, you might decide that a one-off fee would be better. Though, from a publisher's point of view, that'd be a bad decision, as the book is unlikely to be selling by the truck-load. From a publisher's point of view, you'd want other contributors to let you use their tunes for free, because they liked and respected Duncan so much.

4. Yes, accumulating a reserve would be a nice thing to do.

By the way, here's a link to a great way to go about re-publishing out-of-print books:

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Subject: RE: The legalities of music publishing
From: GUEST,Calum
Date: 03 Apr 13 - 02:37 PM

Folks, rather later than I should have done, thanks for your responses. Very much appreciated.

And a word of warning to anyone else who tries this - it's more work than you think!

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Subject: RE: The legalities of music publishing
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 03 Apr 13 - 05:58 PM

This is VERY specific to UK law.

First step MUST be to get the publishing agreement. If (as was normal in the early 70s) it assigns copyright, another problem is coming.

The next question is the publisher. An individual or a limited company?

If the former one of the unrepealed sections of the Bankruptcy Act 1907 prevents the use of the assigned material under the title of the publisher without payment to the composer of the contractual royalty.

If the latter - eucalyptus tree time. Title to the assigned works devolves via the publishing company but the royalty obligation is unenforceable against a dissolved company and does not bind the successor in title. Look into the history of Immediate Records and the Small Faces if you are curious. If there is no assignee then the rights are bona vacantia and an assignment or licence is needed from the department of bona vacantia - which can be very hard to get, been there, done that.

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