Lyrical album covers

Copyright matters affecting music and musicians.
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Lyrical album covers

Post by gouje0864 »

So basically I have started to make these things I call Lyrical Albums. Basically it is all of the lyrics from a bands album, put together to form their album cover. Basically I would just like to know if this is legal to sell? Or do I really need to get permission for every single one I try to sell? Thanks!

Link to pic below

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Post by AndyJ »

Hi Gouje0864,
It's just as well that you live in the USA, as it is just possible that what you want to do could be permitted under the Fair Use doctrine in US Copyright law.
Both the original artwork of the album cover and the lyrics of the songs are protected by copyright, but combining them in this novel and transformative way may well fall within fair use.
For the convenience of those who would like to see Gouje's image which he referred to, it can be found here and the original artwork for the album is here (copyright in the artwork belongs to Tony Moore)
Fair use differs considerably from the exemption for fair dealing which is found in UK, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand copyright law, as its scope is much wider and not limited specific identified categories of usage. The Fair Use doctrine is explained in this Wikipedia article so I don't intend re-state it here. Suffice to say, that since the new work is clearly transformative use of both the lyrics and the original artwork, its purpose and character is different to that of the album, the amount of the original which is re-used is limited to the double C symbol, and although the OP intends to sell his work, his work does not affect the value of the original work and is not likely to divert sales from the original, I think there is a very good argument to say this is fair use, and therefore not infringement.
Unfortunately for the OP, my view counts for absolutely nothing if the copyright owners decide to take offence at this. However on the plus side there appears to be no major record company involved in this particular album, and so the likelihood of litigation is much reduced.
However if you intend to do this with other bands and albums, you should make sure to be equally transformative in your interpretation, and use as little as possible of the original work to anchor your own work, and you should stay on the right side of the law. I would advise staying away from the major record labels as much as possible because they tend to have a robust attitude to those they feel are undermining their intellectual property rights, and they undoubtedly have deeper pockets than you if it should come to a fight.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007
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