I want to put on a concert show to help raise money for cancer. I've determined that the songs and sound recordings I want to use have copyright protection. However, there are at least two songs I want to use that have copyright protection that I can't find in the catalog of music at BMI, ASCAP, etc. How do I go about seeking permission to use the works that I can't find in the catalog of music at BMI, ASCAP, etc?
You can find the current owner of a copyright, even those not listed with ASAP and BMI, in the records of the U.S. Copyright Office. (http://www.copyright.gov/records/) I would suggest that you get some assistance from a copyright attorney before reaching out to the owners yourself, especially if the owner is not simply an individual. You also want to make sure that you're contacting the right person (remember that copyrights for recordings are not always held by the same person who holds the copyright for the musical work) and that you are securing the rights you actually need to include the songs in your benefit.
While this could be a very straightforward task you really should consider getting a local attorney to assist you. If it's for charity they may be willing to help you free of charge, or for a nominal fee. Best of luck.
I assume you also tried looking at SESAC right? If the works you are seeking are not listed on any PRO then you would have to make the effort to get rights directly from the songwriter or studio. This may be end up being way more trouble than what it is worth for the purpose of performing these two songs at your show.
If you think you need some help, I suggest that you consult with a lawyer in private and discuss your objectives in more detail. You can start by calling around to several for a free phone consultation, get some insights then pick the best fit to work with.
DISCLAIMER: this is not intended to be specific legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. No attorney-client relationship is formed with the law firm of Natoli-Lapin, LLC on the basis of this posting.
Make sure that you look at each of the catalogs for ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, if you can't find them on the catalogs or on the records of the copyright Office, the artist or publisher needs to be contacted. If this is a problem, you can either ask your Copyright/Entertainment Attorney to do the legwork, or you can skip those works and select ones that are listed.
For more detailed advice, I recommend that you contact an experienced Copyright/Entertainment attorney to advise you in confidence about your options and potential costs. Many IP specialty firms, like ours, offer an initial free conference by telephone, video conference or in person if you are available locally and would be happy to speak with you. Call and speak with an experienced Copyright attorney who can assist you.
Mr. Sack's postings on Avvo are of a general nature, based on the facts provided and are not intended to be taken as legal advice or to establish an attorney-client relationship.
In response to your comments to my colleagues:
As for the song "Taurus," the musical composition owner is the Randy Craig Wolfe Trust [if you believe its attorney] or Quinn Wolfe [if you believe the attorneys for Led Zeppelin (which is currently being sued by the Trust for infringing "Taurus" in "Stairway to Heaven")].
As for "Back Door Man" the Copyright Office lists Willie Dixon himself -- and only him -- as the copyright claimant for the musical composition. He's passed away so you should contact his Blues Heaven foundation [ http://www.bluesheaven.com ] for information about who currently owns the copyright..
Or, as my colleagues note, you should forget about these two songs and work through the three performing rights organizations.
And remember: Your licenses only cover the one-time public performance of the musical compositions and sound recordings. You may not lawfully videotape the concert or broadcast or stream it live.
The above response is general information ONLY and is not legal advice, does not form an attorney-client relationship, and should NOT be relied upon to take or refrain from taking any action. I am not your attorney. You should seek the advice of competent counsel before taking any action related to your inquiry.
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