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RJK
03-21-2010, 07:50 PM
I have no intention of trying this. I was just wondering about the rights of old song lyrics.

Suppose a popular singer today took an old song that was in public domain, and turned it into a hit. Could he copyright the lyrics? the song?

Could a writer use the lyrics in his story without seeking permission, paying royalties?

DreamWeaver
03-21-2010, 07:59 PM
I have no intention of trying this. I was just wondering about the rights of old song lyrics.

Suppose a popular singer today took an old song that was in public domain, and turned it into a hit. Could he copyright the lyrics? the song?

Could a writer use the lyrics in his story without seeking permission, paying royalties?Lots of artists have recorded old folk songs. Simon & Garfunkel's "Scarborough Fair" comes to mind immediately. Don't know the ins-and-outs of rights on them, other than that I'm sure the S&G recording itself is protected. Pretty sure the Byrds didn't get rights to a section of the Book of Ecclesiastes just because they recorded "Turn, Turn, Turn" either. Interesting question.

Medievalist
03-21-2010, 09:41 PM
The arrangement, the music, can be copyright, but the lyrics would still be derivative.

The Simon and Garfunkel version is copyright on lyrics and tune; you'll notice that the full title is Scarborough Fair Canticle; it's substantially different because of the second, original, set of lyrics--it is a new composition.

Momento Mori
03-22-2010, 01:34 PM
RJK:
Suppose a popular singer today took an old song that was in public domain, and turned it into a hit. Could he copyright the lyrics? the song?

Could a writer use the lyrics in his story without seeking permission, paying royalties?

In the UK, the lyrics would remain public domain but the singer would have copyright in his performance/recording.

MM

RJK
03-23-2010, 07:10 PM
I had a feeling the modern artists would change enough of the original lyrics to call them their own. Makes sense.

bonitakale
03-24-2010, 04:43 AM
I remember hunting all over the cover of the LP (I'm pretty old) of Godspell, trying to find any credits for the hymns they used. None. Zip. I thought it was pretty small of them.

http://www.musicalschwartz.com/godspell-songs.htm

SirOtter
03-24-2010, 05:56 AM
Pretty sure the Byrds didn't get rights to a section of the Book of Ecclesiastes just because they recorded "Turn, Turn, Turn" either. Interesting question.

Nor did Bob Dylan, who actually wrote the song by setting the passages from scripture to his tune. The Byrds' version came out first due to, IIRC, a misunderstanding about Dylan's plans for the song.

I'm sure there are provisions in copyright law to prevent someone from absconding with someone else's public domain work.

blacbird
03-24-2010, 11:03 AM
I'm sure there are provisions in copyright law to prevent someone from absconding with someone else's public domain work.

By legal definition, public domain work no longer belongs to "someone else". That's the entire point of public domain.

caw

DreamWeaver
03-24-2010, 08:09 PM
Perhaps the intent was to say that it would be logical for provisions to exist in copyright law which prevent someone from copyrighting someone else's work which is already in the public domain.

Which makes sense, even if there aren't. Seems there should be.