My dad-lone survivor of a past famous singing group-Not making anything from his records.?

The tapes,CDs and some vinyl records are still selling worldwide. In the early years there was no such thing as copyrite. My dad is currently in a nursing home and not making a penny while others are benefiting from his past work. How do I go about getting information if his music was copyrited by anyone and what can we do subsequently?

5 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
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    I think you should make a New Years resolution that you are going to personally get to the bottom of this issue within the next month. Time is always of the essence when dealing with legal issues. You are just looking for someone who can guide you through the process and do so at a cost-effective price for youself. What is the point of securing your rights if all of the profits end up with the lawyer. However, it doesn't have to end up that way. That is a defeatist attitude. Lawyers are in competition with each other to see that their clients get the best deal.

    Your statement that 'in the early years there was no such thing as copyright' is simply not true.

    'Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution, also known as the Copyright Clause, gives Congress the power to enact statutes To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.'

    Congress first exercised this power with the enactment of the Copyright Act of 1790, and has changed and updated copyright statutes several times since. The Copyright Act of 1976, though it has been modified since its enactment, is currently the basis of copyright law in the United States.

    The length of the copyright term within the United States was extended by the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, which made the copyright term the life of the author plus 70 years for works created after January 1, 1978. In the case of a work of corporate authorship (also known as "Work for Hire") the term will be 95 years from the date of first publication or 120 years from the date of creation, whichever expires first. This legislation was challenged in court and affirmed by the US Supreme Court in the landmark copyright decision, Eldred v. Ashcroft (2003), in which the Supreme Court agreed that the length of the copyright term (ie, the period of time during which the copyright holder has a monopoly on its exploitation) could be extended by Congress after the original act of creation and beginning of the copyright term, as long as the extension itself was limited instead of perpetual. The duration of U.S. copyright for works created before 1978 is a complex matter; however, works published before 1923 are all in the public domain. In the US, after the death of a copyright holder, heirs inherit the copyright.

    17 U.S.C. § 105 withholds copyright protection from any work of the United States Government, defined in 17 U.S.C. § 101 as "a work prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person's official duties." Any such work is therefore in the public domain.

    United States Copyright Law

    There are many issues that deal with copyright. A person that writes, produces and performs his own work is different than a person that is a 'musician for hire'.

    Some pertinent questions:

    What was the legal relationship between your father and this group?

    What was the legal relationship between your father, the group, their management and the record company?

    An example that comes to mind is Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones. It is common knowledge that Ron Wood can be considered a 'musician for hire' in the context of the Rolling Stones. (This may have been renegotiated in recent years).

    He is paid on a per-performance basis, rather than as a member of the group. This means that he is paid far less than the rest of the members.

    The question that arises, as does with your father, is how is his performance protected under copyright law in relation to his residuals. This is the crux of the issue that the copyright attorney must uncover. Music companies are constantly under a barrage of law suits relating to this.

    The most recent public one that has come to light is an agreement between Bing Crosby and Universal Music (I believe)whereby Bing Crosby's heirs are litigating on behalf of the estate of Bing Crosby as to an agreement made by Bing Crosby regarding his early catalogue; an ageement that has been overlooked by the music company; Universal, in paying residuals to the estate.

    It is therefore the responsibility of the copyright attorney to uncover the agreements, assess their legality and, when warranted, proceed to address their client's or his/her heirs

    grievances in a court of law.

    You should be able to explain your father's case to a copyright attorney that practices in these issues without incurring any sort of fee.

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  • 1 decade ago

    Some issues here are who was the writer on the songs and who is the publisher. Copyright has existed for a very long time, so I highly doubt that your father's music is public domain. Check out agencies like BMI that distribute write/publisher royalties. If your father is only a musician on the records and did not significantly contribute to the creative aspect of the music you probably will not be able to collect a lot of money, so it might not be worth hiring an attorney. Entertainment attorneys go for about $350-$500 an hour and I don't know if money is a factor for you.

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  • 3 years ago

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    go see a copy right lawyer.

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  • 1 decade ago

    contact a lawyer, pronto.

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