Is it legal to do a cover of a song? is permission needed?
Old 6th June 2011
  #1
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Is it legal to do a cover of a song? is permission needed?

as the subject says ... want to do a cover of an older song and then get it released. is it legal? do I need permission? i see many dance artists doing covers ... I will not be sampling, or using any of the original song.
Old 6th June 2011
  #2
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Kindred's Avatar
 

my understanding is that there is nothing stopping you from releasing a cover. However publishing royalties will go to the original artist. I believe you keep performance royalties.

happy to be corrected if this is not the case
Old 6th June 2011
  #3
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I think it's something to do with a mechanical licensing royalty. $.08 everytime you play it or an album is sold. Not positive on the legal procedures or publishing or anything like that. For some reason the mechanical licensing fee sticks in my mind...
Old 6th June 2011
  #4
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you need to secure the rights to cover the song in order to do a comercial release. this means either buying the rights to the song entirely from the original artist, or paying up front/percentage of royalties for a license arrangement. and there is no set fee. the original artist or their label can set any licensing fee or terms they wish. the original artist can refuse you entirely and if you release it anyway they can come after you for all the proceeds of your sales plus damages if they can win those in court. look at the verve's bittersweet symphony. they secured permission to use a rolling stones sample but went too far in how much of it was used and ended up paying the stones all royalties on that song because of it.


there are cases where no one holds the copyright to a song as it's past the copyright timeframe and no one bothered renewing it or the copyright holder is dead and no one ended up with a clear holding of the rights. these cases are extremely rare and probably not something you want to use.
Old 6th June 2011
  #5
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sorry but also publishing rights do not allow recordings to be sold, only performed live.
Old 6th June 2011
  #6
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Don't know where you're operating, but here in the U.S. we have compulsory licenses for covering other peoples' songs. It's great. No permission necessary IF THE SONG HAS ALREADY BEEN RECORDED. The composer only gets priority if the song hasn't been recorded.

If you're performing live, the venue already pays a fee to ASCAP, BMI and SESAC who distribute the performance royalties to the composers. Same thing if you're performing on the radio.

If you're recording the song, you owe mechanical royalties for each copy of your record that is manufactured. The Harry Fox Agency collects these. You should essentially include it in your manufacturing costs.

Don't sweat it too much. It's not a very big deal unless you make changes to the song (like Weird Al, or interpolating it as the hook or beat of a rap song, or whatever, which are considered "derivative works" and require an additional license)
Old 6th June 2011
  #7
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Waxavub's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by W-W-Int View Post
you need to secure the rights to cover the song in order to do a comercial release. this means either buying the rights to the song entirely from the original artist, or paying up front/percentage of royalties for a license arrangement. and there is no set fee. the original artist or their label can set any licensing fee or terms they wish. the original artist can refuse you entirely and if you release it anyway they can come after you for all the proceeds of your sales plus damages if they can win those in court. look at the verve's bittersweet symphony. they secured permission to use a rolling stones sample but went too far in how much of it was used and ended up paying the stones all royalties on that song because of it.


there are cases where no one holds the copyright to a song as it's past the copyright timeframe and no one bothered renewing it or the copyright holder is dead and no one ended up with a clear holding of the rights. these cases are extremely rare and probably not something you want to use.
i thought if the song is recorded you dont need permision.
Old 6th June 2011
  #8
Old 6th June 2011
  #9
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Thread Starter
Thanks ... I did some research online as well. Seems like I do indeed have to pay a licensing fee. Appreciate all your responses. Seems quite straight forward.
Old 6th June 2011
  #10
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and how do you go about doing that?

thanks!
Old 6th June 2011
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Beatsmith View Post
and how do you go about doing that?

thanks!
go to MCPS and look for an 'AP2' license - this basically asks you to list the tracks on the CD and charges you I think 12% of retail price for the mechanical royalty to the original writers and publishers of the songs ( assuming every track on the CD was a cover, if not it's divided down as a fraction of the the total number of tracks on the CD being original or covers ) The payment for this license fee has to be paid in full before pressing ... so if you gonna press 10,000 units that can be a thing to think about first !

Beer.
Old 6th June 2011
  #12
Gear maniac
 

depending on how the song is represented you may have to contact the publishing company directly that represents the composer for a rate, otherwise you can probably request a license through harry fox http://www.harryfox.com/index.jsp

remember that you need separate licenses for both mechanical and digital distribution. have fun paying royalties
Old 6th June 2011
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by L-feld View Post
Don't know where you're operating, but here in the U.S. we have compulsory licenses for covering other peoples' songs. It's great. No permission necessary IF THE SONG HAS ALREADY BEEN RECORDED. The composer only gets priority if the song hasn't been recorded.

If you're performing live, the venue already pays a fee to ASCAP, BMI and SESAC who distribute the performance royalties to the composers. Same thing if you're performing on the radio.

If you're recording the song, you owe mechanical royalties for each copy of your record that is manufactured. The Harry Fox Agency collects these. You should essentially include it in your manufacturing costs.

Don't sweat it too much. It's not a very big deal unless you make changes to the song (like Weird Al, or interpolating it as the hook or beat of a rap song, or whatever, which are considered "derivative works" and require an additional license)
yes that's all well and great but...

you can only then release in the u.s.

and if your cover gets put on a cd and sold say in france or germany guess what...

you'll wish you'd secured permission from the original artist

or say the original is a foreign track not released in the u.s. but copyrighted to prevent others from pulling a "der kommisar" - "don't turn around" on you (song ended up in 13 languages by various artists).

if it was never released just copyrighted or was released on cd not online or online never in print and you go the other way round ...

nightmare...

i realize my example was of a sample and not a good one (too late) but the fact is you can get bit in the ass quite hard if you aren't careful. it's not an automatic pass or go situation you have to carefully look at the original track's release and go from there.
Old 7th June 2011
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by W-W-Int View Post
you need to secure the rights to cover the song in order to do a comercial release. this means either buying the rights to the song entirely from the original artist, or paying up front/percentage of royalties for a license arrangement. and there is no set fee. the original artist or their label can set any licensing fee or terms they wish. the original artist can refuse you entirely and if you release it anyway they can come after you for all the proceeds of your sales plus damages if they can win those in court. look at the verve's bittersweet symphony. they secured permission to use a rolling stones sample but went too far in how much of it was used and ended up paying the stones all royalties on that song because of it.
.
Not sure where you're coming from on this but you may be confusing recording rights with song rights. If you want to cover a an existing copyrighted song and don't intend to claim any publishing rights or copyright to the song itself there is nothing to stop you doing so recording your version and putting on the CD for commercial release just as long as you're paying mechanical royalty before pressing ( just as with the manufacture of any commercial CD )

You certainly can't as you say "buy(ing) the rights to the song entirely from the original artist" - I think what you may have meant it pay for a license. - which would only be relevant if you were using their recording but that isn't the case for the OP.

There are of course completely different rights and rules if you're intending to sync the song to picture or use if for advertising or promotion in conjunction with other media.
Old 7th June 2011
  #15
Gear maniac
 

in the UK you can record your own version as long as it sticks to the original arrangement.

if you deviate from that or want to remix your own version you will have to contact the original publisher directly and ask permission
Old 8th June 2011
  #16
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L-feld's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by W-W-Int View Post
yes that's all well and great but...

you can only then release in the u.s.

and if your cover gets put on a cd and sold say in france or germany guess what...

you'll wish you'd secured permission from the original artist

or say the original is a foreign track not released in the u.s. but copyrighted to prevent others from pulling a "der kommisar" - "don't turn around" on you (song ended up in 13 languages by various artists).

if it was never released just copyrighted or was released on cd not online or online never in print and you go the other way round ...

nightmare...

i realize my example was of a sample and not a good one (too late) but the fact is you can get bit in the ass quite hard if you aren't careful. it's not an automatic pass or go situation you have to carefully look at the original track's release and go from there.
Well, if the song's publishing by CMRRA and PRS/MCPS, then you can secure a license with nearly no work and get a rate nearly equal to that of a compulsory license for Canada and the U.K., which covers three big markets. As to Europe, I have no idea how that works. My law school didn't offer any international copyrights classes and my knowledge regarding Cananda and the U.K. only comes from my experience working at Smithsonian Folkways.

At any rate, if you're a small time artist based in the U.S. or Canada, European distribution might not mean that much to you.

And if international distribution or touring is a lucrative option, you should talk to a lawyer and shouldn't be seeking free advice from a quasi anonymous message board.
Old 8th June 2011
  #17
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steveschizoid's Avatar
Old 8th June 2011
  #18
3 + infractions, forum membership suspended.
You can still do a cover of something in the PUBLIC DOMAIN and pay exactly ZERO royalties....

Yeah, I know, it's going to be pretty old stuff...
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