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MMD > Archives > December 1995 > 1995.12.07 > 03Prev  Next

Re: Music Copyrights
By Larry Smith (Joe) "Music Copyrights"

> I have seen various references to copyrights and would like to know if
> anyone can clearly define what is the current protection period of copyright
> for published music. In particular, what is the cutoff date on old player
> piano and similar material. At what point in time can royalties be terminated?

With Congress in session, almost anything can happen. This is my understanding as of the current time: copyright runs for 50 years plus the life of the original author, or for 75 years for works-for-hire (i.e. commissioned work). This was an extension by Congress of the original copyright act, passed some 20 years ago. There was a bill in the latest Congress to extend these figures another 20 years each, to 70 years plus life of the author, and 95 years for works-for-hire, I don't know where it is or what state it is in. In theory, none of these changes applied to any- thing already in the public domain when Congress first monkeyed with the law, but it can be very difficult to tell the actual copyright status of a work, especially now that Congress has rem- oved any requirement that a copyright work be clearly marked. So, as far as I know, there is no hard-and-fast cutoff date that will guarantee something is public domain, but I think that anything prior to 1900 is probably safe, especially if the author was't very long-lived. Lousy answer, I know, but Congress is way out of control on this intellectual property stuff.

Larry Smith

(Message sent Thu 7 Dec 1995, 16:08:11 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  Copyrights, Music

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