Rory Leonore's Excellent Copyright Adventure
Hello everyone! It’s Herr Wozzeck here, and I’m excited to be writing our first blog post for Trio Menagerie. We’re excited for our upcoming concerts at Midwest Fur Fest, with both our classical and our pops programs. We are all hard at work practicing for all of them: we’ve got about two and a half to three hours of music planned, and we can’t wait to go into recording sessions soon!
But for today’s blog post, we’re going to step away from that and just mention some logistical issues, some that every creative mind that deals at geek conventions has had to grapple with a lot: copyright.
Musical copyright is something of a slippery slope: here, perhaps more than in films and music, do us creatives grapple with copyright issues up the wazoo. Unfortunately, we have to grapple with copyright for music ourselves with our upcoming album, for the simple reason that the entire album is technically consisting of copyrighted tunes, even if some of them are ripped out of the original sound context as in the Geekludes and Fugues.
Hey, when you’re dealing with corporate bodies that are way bigger than you, better safe than sorry, you know?
Rory, our cellist, has thus taken it upon ourselves to figure out copyright: her sister just so happens to be a lawyer, and knows more or less what we need to get. And what we need is called a mechanical license: these are a little agreement between the user of the music (us) and the holder of the music’s copyright that allows us to release these songs in an audio-only format, such as a CD or a digital download. Normally this would be a no-issue for live performances since copyright is very lax around that, but it gets much hairier in the realm of recorded releases.
And that… is a lot easier said than done. In order to get the mechanical license, we need to know the following: the name of the song in use, who owns the copyright, and who distributes that copyright in the US. Unfortunately, about 99% of the time most composers who work in movies, games, and TV don’t tend to hold the copyrights for their own works: that is usually either the corporation, or the publishing company.
So of course, Rory had to figure that out, and that meant trolling across a bunch of composers’ royalties organizations to find the relevant information. She had to scour her way through ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers), BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.), Pro Music Rights, and others to figure out who held the copyrights for the original versions of each work. Then, we have to find the subsidiaries that handle distribution of mechanical licenses, and then we have to contact them and get the license. It isn’t always easy to hunt this information down on the internet, however, so this requires extensive research, particularly with the number of properties that we were drawing from.
At this point in time, we’re still waiting to hear from the various copyright holders about the mechanical licenses. It’s a somewhat stressful endeavor, and the wait is really the worst part about all of this. We expect it won’t get in the way of our debut album, though, so I hope you’re ready for the pages of liner notes just spent on copyright disclaimers!