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Help: Copyright rules

11 Feb 01 - 02:16 PM (#395705)
Subject: Copyright rules
From: Spud Murphy

Somebody said in a previous thread that there are no stupid questions, but I feel stupid asking this. I was searching various places for the lyrics to 'Who?', written by Jerome Kern, words by Oscar Hammerstein, 1925 ex film 'Sunny.' The Big Bands Data Base indicated that a song with the same name, but without the question mark, was written in 1924 by Irving Berlin. A search of CDNOW and Tower Records discovered a proliferation of 'Who' songs(?) by various artists(?)who had recorded noise of one kind or another that sounded similar to that made by our old Essex touring car the day before we finally hauled it off to the junkyard back in 1930. By reading between the lines of the several qualifying statements of several lyric data bases, it is apparent some rules came into effect in 1947 regarding copyrighting music and lyrics. I'm interested in what that the story is and I don't want to hire a lawyer. (Or even talk to one) Appreciate your help.

11 Feb 01 - 11:17 PM (#395997)
Subject: RE: Help: Copyright rules
From: GUEST,Burke

Is this the song you're looking for? Click here

Copyright comes up so often, that while the questions aren't dumb, the ones with answers won't do it all again. Try putting copyright in the box under the word filter on the Forum page, set the age for anything more than 30 days & you'll find something.

A short answer is that copyright laws vary from country to country and are constantly be changed & updated. Here's a timeline of significanat changes. The most important was the change in 1976, that set copyright to life of author +50 years instead of the max of 56 years from creation. The 50 years has since been changed to 75. That law change affected materials from the 1920's forward. Pre 1920's material was not affected by the law change.

12 Feb 01 - 08:04 AM (#396179)
Subject: RE: Help: Copyright rules
From: MMario

In short, in the US, if it was published before 1923 it is in the public domain.

12 Feb 01 - 01:40 PM (#396463)
Subject: RE: Help: Copyright rules
From: Spud Murphy

Thanks, GUEST,Burke. Thanks, MMario.

I should have used a different prefix for this thread, but I thought it was a music subject and that the B.S. prefix would not have been inappropriate. I am sorry I misled you. I will learn. I have no interest in the legal or commercial aspects of copyright law. I simply thought it was peculiar and perhaps an infringement of some kind, for two songwriters of the stature of Irving Berlin and Oscar Hammerstein to give their songs, written a year and a half apart, the same title, if such is the case as indicated on the Bo Lewis web sight. I wondered if that was other than an just an oversight.

The rest of the post was simply social comentary. It upsets me greatly to have the title of a pretty little song like "Who?" preempted to identify dischordant, disharmonious, obnoxious noise that hardly qualifies to be classified as music, public domain be damned.

In my opinion. Spud

12 Feb 01 - 02:02 PM (#396479)
Subject: RE: Help: Copyright rules
From: Skeptic


My understanding is that in general titles of songs (or books or movies) are not protected in the US unless they are asserted as a registered trademark.



12 Feb 01 - 05:28 PM (#396631)
Subject: RE: Help: Copyright rules

12 Feb 01 - 05:36 PM (#396640)
Subject: RE: Help: Copyright rules
From: GUEST,pattyClink

I wouldn't count on the 1923 rule too heavily. I did a little historical fiction and compilation work a few years back, and there are problems with things like Mark Twain stuff even dating back before '23. Sometimes grasping heirs and/or firms which bought copyrights refuse to let go, and they renewed copyrights, running them into the newer stretches designated by later laws, and they're STILL not public domain. There are lots of variables, including the fact that the rights go from the author's death, not the date of publication.

Not an attorney, and clearly the prior writers have set forth the important stuff to know, but I'd hate to see somebody assume there is a blanket 1923 rule, slap stuff on an album or in a book, and get into some lawsuit that could have been headed off.

12 Feb 01 - 07:13 PM (#396713)
Subject: RE: Help: Copyright rules
From: GUEST,CraigS

Just a clarification - Skeptic is right to say that the title of a copyrighted publication is not included in the copyright; if it were included, it would not be easily possible to make printed reference to the work, because copyright law would then apply to the reference. In plain English, no-one would sell any books or records if reviewers had to go through copyright hassles to mention the titles!

12 Feb 01 - 10:10 PM (#396808)
Subject: RE: Help: Copyright rules
From: T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird)

I'm not a lawyer either, this is not legal advice, and also it's a bit off the thread originator's topic. That said: in the U.S. the 1923 rule is probably fairly strong for things like books and stories that were published by reputable U.S. publishers. But of course the copyright is expired only in the book as it was published prior to 1923. If a "revised edition" was published in 1923 or later, the revisions have a separate copyright applying only to them. The problem, of course, is deconvoluting them from the uncopyrighted parts.

Of course the "1923 rule" (or "1922 rule" as I prefer to name it, after the last year from which works were promoted to the public domain) applies only to the U.S. In other countries a copyright might last longer, or not as long. Also the copyright status of some works that were first published outside the U.S. is complicated in the western U.S. by a bizarre court decision (Twin Books--the Bambi case) in the U.S. ninth judicial circuit. Then there are at least hypothetical complications involving the old common-law right of first publication. Still (though I repeat that I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice, etc. etc.) the "1922 rule" strikes me as being a part of copyright law that is somewhat less unpredictable than, say, the answers to questions of fair use.