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What are the copyright rules?

BillyBobBillyBob Graham, WaNew
edited April 2009 in FAQ Posts: 53
If I were to record a CD of some well known tunes, how do I find out whether or not I'm violating any copyright laws?
Just your average Djoe.


  • Posts: 597
    Well-known tunes? Such as ... ?

    Probably under copyright protection, unless they are from the 19th Century or earlier. Most 20C tunes are protected ... there's a cutoff date, I think -- if it's written after the 1920's or teens then just assume it's protected. Anything in the last 100 years is probably protected.

    Wait ... are you in America? Laws differ per country ... though publishers will still come after you to collect if you live outside the USA.

    But then again, how many copies are you pressing? If you press a million copies of someone else's protected tune, expect a knock at your door. If you press 50 and sell them out of your garage, the knock may not come -- but the record industry is in dire straits, so bolt the door just in case.
  • MontereyJacquesMontereyJacques ✭✭✭✭
    edited October 2011 Posts: 81
  • I think that in the past we talked about this in depth in another thread on this forum. I think it was determined that the first Django song to come out of copyright will be Minor Swing and I think the year will be 2017, if I remember correctly. The whole catalog wont be out of copyright until 2050+ .

    Here is the link to the old thread:
  • MontereyJacquesMontereyJacques ✭✭✭✭
    edited October 2011 Posts: 81
  • klaatuklaatu Nova ScotiaProdigy Rodrigo Shopis D'Artagnan, 1950s Jacques Castelluccia
    Posts: 1,663
    My Nova Scotia gypsy jazz group ( is working on its first CD, and we're belatedly realizing that we have to deal with copyright issues. I've gone through the referenced information and have read the CMRRA brochure in detail, and I still have some questions for those of you with more experience at this.

    The CMRRA charges about $.08 per song per copy, but the minimum is 500 copies, or a $40.50 minimum charge per song, plus 6% handling fee and 6% GST (that's a federal sales tax for you non-Canadians). Our CD has 9 songs that are not in public domain, so this works out to a fixed cost of around $400 for a small run, whether it is 1 CD or 500.

    They also state that several weeks may be required to go through the process (Why didn't we think of this sooner? Aaarrrggghhh!)

    1) Is there any cost or time advantage to going directly to the publisher? Is this even advisable?

    2) If we were to sell the CDs through a US-based distribution channel (such as CD Baby), do we have to get US copyright clearance as well?

    3) If we sell the CDs from a Canadian location but a sale is made to someone in another country (say the US), do we have to have US clearance?

    Any advice anyone can offer would be very much appreciated.

    "It's a great feeling to be dealing with material which is better than yourself, that you know you can never live up to."
    -- Orson Welles
  • JackJack western Massachusetts✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 1,911
    I've got no answers, only more questions. We're getting ready to put out a disc, and I've been researching the licensing via Harry Fox, but I'm confused about one thing in particular: iTunes.

    Obviously we want to be able to use it, but this phrase on the Harry Fox site gave me pause: "Licenses for songs on physical products and for DPDs must be obtained in separate transactions." (DPDs are digital downloads.) Does this mean I'm paying the same amount twice? Once for the CD permission and once for digital permission?

    It's definitely an issue for smaller bands. To give a simple example, if we have 10 tunes under five minutes that require licenses, and want to produce 1000 discs, the licenses will run us $910 before processing fees. If we need to pay that AGAIN to use iTunes we'll be up around two thousand dollars. The fees go up if the recording is over five minutes.

    I hope I'm missing something here, and that all of you who have released discs of your own can chime in with your experiences. I know many of you have released similar material over the years, and it would be a great help to have some general tips on the forum.

  • JackJack western Massachusetts✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 1,911
    A little more digging turned up this on the Harry Fox site:

    What type of license is required for full permanent downloads of music?

    For audio-only full permanent downloads, a mechanical license is required. If you expect to deliver less than 2,500 DPD's, you can obtain the license through HFA Songfile. If you have an established HFA Licensing Account, you can also obtain the licenses through eMechanical, or if you need to obtain licenses in bulk (over 100 titles) please submit HFA's DPD Application.

    Depending on your use, you may need to obtain other kinds of licenses that HFA does not provide.

    I previously obtained a mechanical license a license for a CD (album or single). Will a new license be required for the Full Download configuration?

    Yes. Full, permanent downloads (DPD's) require a separate mechanical license. If you expect to deliver less than 2,500 DPD's, you can obtain the license through HFA Songfile. If you have an established HFA Licensing Account, you can also obtain the licenses through eMechanical, or if you need to obtain licenses in bulk (over 100 titles) please submit HFA's DPD Application.

    By the way, this is US just seems crazy, though, to release a jazz album as a small band if standards are going to cost that much. Just getting the rights and pressing 1000 copies could easily go into the four thousand dollar range. I guess I should get cracking on more originals...

  • plectromanplectroman Albany New YorkNew
    Posts: 34
    This is a very interesting subject. Does anyone know if the inheritors of Django's estate, for example, receive moneys from the copyright and publishing?
    everything is everything
  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 5,904
    I've spoken with one firm that pays royalties to Django's heirs....he said it usually entails someone dropping a bag of money off at a caravan somewhere around Paris. I'm serious!

  • I found a website that seems to be a method for licensing songs... Looks like it would come out to roughly $100-$200 per gypsy jazz album.
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