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I have continuing questions about fair use but my main question pertains to getting 'permission' for new songs you write that contain, for instance, maybe a title, maybe a phrase, maybe even two complete lines (and the melody for those two lines) from another song. I have one particular song that has all of the above. It's kind of a tribute song to other artists. If you decide that you would prefer that the copyright holder(s) grant 'permission,' whatever that is, who would you contact? What if the writer is dead? And his only known (direct) heir, a son, is dead? How do you determine who to contact? Without going to the courthouse and looking for a will or probate, how do you know who owns the copyright? I don't even know if they put that kind of thing in a will/probate. Is copyright ownership listed online with an agency or the copyright office?

Then, what if they don't answer? What if they refuse? Any thoughts on this? Then again, maybe all of this is a non-issue because I am a nobody but what IF you wrote a song that gained traction in the world of music and you have NOT gotten permission? This particular song in question has references to many artists and getting permission would be kinda over the top burdensome; perhaps being concerned about using a song title is a non-issue, but using two complete lines from another song and the melody... I am fuzzy on that one, whether you need 'permission.' It seems the more potentially 'necessary.'

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Hi,

For the most part, it's not really something to worry about. Most songs simply don't get that much attention. In todays marketplace it is getting more and more common for people to use references in every concievable way, from product mentions, artist and song mentions, and in the case of many many rap records, sampling the exact tracks used in many established recordings. So the entire "copyright issues" are murkier than they have ever been before.

Personally, to avoid a lot of potential problems, I never do the EXACT wordings of songs, or artists, yet do a "tribute to them." On a recent song that referenced Merle Haggard, instead of using the title "MAMA TRIED" I used it in context with the song, 'Mama sang every evening, right about supper time, top of her lungs and out of tune, but Lord, DID MAMA TRY." Using veiled references, yet having the same meaning, yet not EXACTLY the same. That avoids potential problems. Same with musical notation. There are ways to reference the song without having direct references, and that can eliminate any problems you might have.

For the most part, you probably would not have to worry unless it got to higher level stages. There are many stages to songs that people go through. If you were having an artist interested in the song, that usually comes through their management or publishers (most artists today are writers as well) so they might "head something off at the pass" before it ever turned into something. Having a lot of artists or song mentions, could either nullify each other or create more problems. You'd sort of have to take that on, issue by issue.

Most of the time, it is all fairly harmless, and you would never even hear of it unless it gets in a position to make money, then you might get "cease and desist orders" from the publishers or decendents of the artists. The Marvin Gaye family seems to make a living suing anyone who offers an "homage" to their famous son. Ed Sheeren just went through and extended trial on one of his songs. He was vindicated, but I'm sure spent tens of thousands of dollars defending himself and years in the press with something hanging over his head.

In cases like rock star Kid Rock, who had a song called "SINGING SWEET HOME ALABAMA ALL SUMMER LONG", which exactly replicated the song SWEET HOME ALABAMA, by Lynyrd Skynyrd, and had direct signature licks from the song "WHEREWOLVES OF LONDON" by Warren Zevon, Kid Rock, sought and got their permission first, then ADDED the four writers, Gary Rossington, Ronnie Van Zant and Ed King, from Skynyrd, and Zevon's family, from Wherewolves" and made them a part of the song from the onset. One big star paying homage to More of his heroes.

I think you'll find your own way. I'd do it and then see if someone contacts you. For the most part, with billions of songs on the Internet, it's doubtful if you would ever have any issues to deal with. Most of all our songs, rarely go much past our friends, fans and families, and very few artists or writers are going to trouble with spending money to shut down something that is not generating any money. But some internt platforms would not post things that are not cleared, so if that were to happen you would probably have to track down the writers and publishers on each specific song you are talking about. And that could get weird. You are just going to have to think about the various ramifications and then go with your gut.

That's my particular take. There are people who will go through a lot of hoops on songs. That's not me. I have a lot of songs, so if I ran into trouble, I'd just go to something else. A lot of it depends on how invested you are in the song.

MAB

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Originally Posted by DukeWill
I have continuing questions about fair use but my main question pertains to getting 'permission' for new songs you write that contain, for instance, maybe a title, maybe a phrase, maybe even two complete lines (and the melody for those two lines) from another song. I have one particular song that has all of the above. It's kind of a tribute song to other artists. If you decide that you would prefer that the copyright holder(s) grant 'permission,' whatever that is, who would you contact? What if the writer is dead? And his only known (direct) heir, a son, is dead? How do you determine who to contact? Without going to the courthouse and looking for a will or probate, how do you know who owns the copyright? I don't even know if they put that kind of thing in a will/probate. Is copyright ownership listed online with an agency or the copyright office?

Then, what if they don't answer? What if they refuse? Any thoughts on this? Then again, maybe all of this is a non-issue because I am a nobody but what IF you wrote a song that gained traction in the world of music and you have NOT gotten permission? This particular song in question has references to many artists and getting permission would be kinda over the top burdensome; perhaps being concerned about using a song title is a non-issue, but using two complete lines from another song and the melody... I am fuzzy on that one, whether you need 'permission.' It seems the more potentially 'necessary.'


It doesn't really depend on whether you are a 'nobody', it depends on whether you 'release' (CD for sale, download, with bar code, etc) your song. That's when you need permission......IF......

If you are using two complete lines, same chords, same lyrics, same notes, you'll definitely need permission from the copyright owner (probably a publisher) to create what is called a 'derivative work' and your copyright will include them in the derivative work and 'by permission from the claimant' in the appropriate line, etc. You can find the copyright owner available printed on the CD, sheet music, or you an look it up at copyright.gov or probably through ASCAP or BMI.

So....

IF you are composing the song 'for sale, distribution, download' etc submitted to any of the platforms, Itunes, Amazon, or are seeking publishing deals, etc., DEFINITELY YES. If the copyright owner refuses, you can't use it. My guess is that they will refuse. I know I would (unless the derivative version is a clear cut blockbuster, as was Leo Sayer's "When i need You" which lifted a line from Leonard cohen's 'Famous Blue Raincoat" see https://allanshowalter.com/2020/10/...rom-leonard-cohens-famous-blue-raincoat/). If you are seeking publishing deals (boutique publishers for TV and film), I doubt they will even give you a contract because of the clearance issues, even if you had permission secured in writing.

But...

If you are just messin' around, put it on bandcamp, not for sale, just to show off to friends, performing in clubs, I wouldn't worry about it unless someone contacts you.

IF you upload it to youtube, you will probably have a copyright challenge by the owners of the copyright. but, then again, maybe not since it's your recording, not there's.

As always, on legal matters, consulting an attorney is the best advice anyone can give you, and to not rely on some dude you don't know on the internet. smile

Last edited by Pat Hardy; 06/12/23 03:29 PM.

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