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Copyright Law when It Comes to Fan Arrangements of Popular Songs Copyright

Discussion in 'Copyright, Trademark, Patent Law' started by Spartan124, Jul 1, 2015.

  1. Spartan124

    Spartan124 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    So we all see fan arrangements of popular songs. How does this work? How are people able to take a popular song (i.e. hallelujah by leonard cohen, just for example) and change it (a little or alot) and have it be "legal"?

    What are the details of, limitations of, and protections in place both for and against "fan arrangements"? Could i just play a fan arrangement of a song on youtube for example (No monetization) and would i be infringing on leonard cohen AND/OR the fan that arranged that particular fan arrangement? Just one or the other? Perhaps neither?

    Any and all details of copyright law as it pertains to fan arrangements is appreciated and thank you for your time.
     
  2. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    Good question -- I have sung Hallelujah at a couple of shows in the past but performed the Jeff Buckley version. :) I'm not sure what you mean by making it their own. You probably want to learn more about a "mechanical license" and a "compulsory license." You'll probably be looking first at a mechanical license. If you want to perform or record a cover of a song that was created by another artist, you need to obtain a license and pay statutory royalty rates. Let's start here as these are probably a good place to start.

    The Harry Fox Agency - What is a Mechanical License?

    ASCAP - Music Licensing FAQ

    Fair Use is a common defense used in copyright infringement claims. If you're performing a parody of a song, that might qualify. Regarding all the covers you see - it's debatable. It's a more detailed discussion but if you're not making money from it and if it's not a substitute of the original song then suffice it to say that virtually nobody will typically care and the artists themselves usually would welcome these performances. They continue to raise interest in the music and which may induce others to purchase the songs played. This is not saying that there isn't any copyright infringement, only that there are some gray areas which are typically not explored because it is needless to do so. That said, you may notice some copyright owners being extremely vigilant with music that may appear on sites such as YouTube. These sites may err on the side of caution in removing such materials. Hope this provides some limited insight into your question.
     
  3. Spartan124

    Spartan124 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Hello! I go on a site like musescore and i see tons of fan arrangements. If i wanted to play a fan's score of a popular song on youtube, like hallelujah for example, would i be able to do so provided that the fan doesn't have any sort of licenses or permissions to make a derivative work. (I have seen that youtube let's people play certain supported songs provided that they do not monetize them as they have deals in place with artists/creators/publishers)

    If a fan makes an arrangement/edit of a song such as hallelujah and does not have any sort of permissions or licenses, is it true that the fan basically has no claim to that score/arrangement and does that fan's arrangement/score still fall under the copyright of the original creator/artist/publisher, no matter how different it may be from the original?
     

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