War Songs

Copyright matters affecting music and musicians.
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War Songs

Post by mrtimmydee »

Hello, I am making a non-profit Social History Documentary about a small place in New Zealand that once was a bustling town. I intend it to be broadcast on TV. Only farms exist there now, but at one time many men were willing to foght for The Motherland. The doco will have two segements for the respective wars, And I would like to know how to obtain music from the War periods; such as would be sung by British and New Zealand troops. (Tipperary; Oh!, It's a lovely War! There will always be an England, et al) My general research had concluded that WW! songs might be in the Public Domain, but I'm not sure on WW2.
Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.
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Post by AndyJ »

Hi mrtimmydee,
I'm not sure I can be much help in tracing indivdual songs etc, but on the general topic of copyright there are a couple of things to bear in mind.

First, many songs will result in two copyright holders: the composer of the music and the lyricist (think Gilbert and Sullivan). It is the date of death of which ever of them dies last that you need to know, in order to work out if the song is out of copyright. From August 1989 (when the current Copyright Designs and Patents Act came into force) you need to add 70 years from the end of the year in which the author died. In fact the maths is slightly more complicated than that, because prior to 1 August 1989, the copyright term was 50 years from the end of the year of death. So in a case where the last author died before 1 Jan 1939, the song will be out of copyright, but if they died in 1939 or later the original 50 years term would still be running in Aug 1989 and would thus be extended by an extra 20 years. It becomes even more complicated if the song is not published until after the death of the author, as the 50 year term then starts when the work is published. The same 50 years from publication applies to works where the author is anonymous or unknown.

Secondly, if you want to use recordings of songs you will need to check the year the recording was issued and add 50 years to that to see if the recording is out of copyright. Fortunately, the copyright term for recordings is 50 years under both the current and previous Acts. Thus any recording made before 1961 is out of copyright now, although copyright in the song itself may still be running.

Of course you can still use music that is in copyright by paying for a licence from the collecting societies. In the UK the ones you would need to contact are PRSforMusic (for the song) and PPL (for use of a recording).

All of this relates to the law in the UK. If you are making the film in New Zealand, you need to check the local law. For NZ licensing go here: http://www.ppnz.co.nz/

Here's a link to a useful guide for film makers about obtaining clearances: BBC film making
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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