#1
Hey guys, I'm just wondering about something here. You may skip this paragraph if you just want the point of the thread . I don't know if any of you are familiar with the piece "Ocean" by John Butler, but basically it's a 12-minute 12-string acoustic guitar instrumental in the key of E major. I was thinking about covering an abridged version during a gig, but it's become really overdone lately (just youtube search ocean cover, you'll see what I mean) so I thought I'd mess with it a bit. For one of my songs I'm using an altered tuning of C-G-C-G-Bb-D which has a nice minor sound to it, and is also quite close to John's open C tuning he uses for Ocean...so in short I'm doing a more melancholy, minor version of Ocean with the working title "Dead Oceans". It's really sounding quite cool, and I'm thinking of recording it.

So the question is, what sort of copyright issues would I come up against if I was to record this song on my EP and sell it? Would it depend on how much alike the songs are or what?
#2
Quote by YetAnotherMuso
Hey guys, I'm just wondering about something here. You may skip this paragraph if you just want the point of the thread . I don't know if any of you are familiar with the piece "Ocean" by John Butler, but basically it's a 12-minute 12-string acoustic guitar instrumental in the key of E major. I was thinking about covering an abridged version during a gig, but it's become really overdone lately (just youtube search ocean cover, you'll see what I mean) so I thought I'd mess with it a bit. For one of my songs I'm using an altered tuning of C-G-C-G-Bb-D which has a nice minor sound to it, and is also quite close to John's open C tuning he uses for Ocean...so in short I'm doing a more melancholy, minor version of Ocean with the working title "Dead Oceans". It's really sounding quite cool, and I'm thinking of recording it.

So the question is, what sort of copyright issues would I come up against if I was to record this song on my EP and sell it? Would it depend on how much alike the songs are or what?


if you label it as "Ocean" and give the writer credit then it is fine i believe
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#3
Quote by GangsterLi
if you label it as "Ocean" and give the writer credit then it is fine i believe

No, you have to give them a percentage of the proceeds from that song too.
#4
Quote by GangsterLi
if you label it as "Ocean" and give the writer credit then it is fine i believe


So if I was to just say "a response to "Ocean" written by John Butler" and acknowledge that the concepts are his originally that would be sufficient? Because I have reworked the thing myself, it's a musical response to his piece, and it references motifs he uses but they are tweaked to have a very different tone...so it's not like I'm claiming it's a whole different piece that has nothing to do with the original, but it is a piece in it's own right.
#5
Quote by Souls United
No, you have to give them a percentage of the proceeds from that song too.


And so how would I go about that? Because it's not just a straight cover...
#6
Hey dude, you're coming across an interesting area of law there - the question is "when do covers contain enough original material to be considered an original piece in their own right?". A required element of copyright is "originality".

Now a work can be derived, in whole or part, from another piece of work, for example Weird Al Yankovic's songs are always parodies of other famous artists, but they satisfy the "originality" requirement as a fair amount of work has been invested in putting them to comical use, to a lay-person you wouldn't consider the pieces to be comparable.

Quite honestly it's hard to tell whether your piece would satisfy the "originality" requirement without hearing both pieces side-by-side. I'm sure you could exercise your judgement to decide. I'd also take note that you are probably a smaller band, and quite honestly Butler's lawyers wouldn't seek you down for the comparatively low royalties associated with the EP.

As said above, you may want to add a line like "Inspired by", "Based on" or "Elements taken from" the said piece that you are paying homage to - and this alone does not designate copyright to Butler.

Hope that helps.
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#7
Did you copy any of his melodies in the song? Because otherwise you could label it your song basically, although you'd probably have to call it something "variations on Ocean by John Butler"

EDIT: btw I listened to the song and it's pretty awesome. It's the kind of song I'd learn and play all day, no joke.
Last edited by st.stephen at Nov 4, 2008,
#8
Quote by AlanHB
Hey dude, you're coming across an interesting area of law there - the question is "when do covers contain enough original material to be considered an original piece in their own right?". A required element of copyright is "originality".

Now a work can be derived, in whole or part, from another piece of work, for example Weird Al Yankovic's songs are always parodies of other famous artists, but they satisfy the "originality" requirement as a fair amount of work has been invested in putting them to comical use, to a lay-person you wouldn't consider the pieces to be comparable.

Quite honestly it's hard to tell whether your piece would satisfy the "originality" requirement without hearing both pieces side-by-side. I'm sure you could exercise your judgement to decide. I'd also take note that you are probably a smaller band, and quite honestly Butler's lawyers wouldn't seek you down for the comparatively low royalties associated with the EP.

As said above, you may want to add a line like "Inspired by", "Based on" or "Elements taken from" the said piece that you are paying homage to - and this alone does not designate copyright to Butler.

Hope that helps.


I think also because there is no single defined version of "Ocean", it's largely a piece that he improvises on the night, that would also help my claim to originality. I have three recordings of Ocean, the album version and two live versions, all of which are COMPLETELY different...so it's not as clear cut as a normal song.
#9
Quote by st.stephen
Did you copy any of his melodies in the song? Because otherwise you could label it your song basically, although you'd probably have to call it something "variations on Ocean by John Butler"


I haven't copied any of his melodies verbatim, no. I have looked at his various motifs that he uses and they've formed the basis for my own minor-ised interpretations...I'll lay something down in the next couple of days and post it up here and you guys can give me your opinions on how similar the two are.
#10
Ask a lawyer and not an internet forum if you actually want to find out.
#11
Quote by Zycho
Ask a lawyer and not an internet forum if you actually want to find out.


Thanks man, that's a helpful post.
#12
Hmmm.... okay, then. Post clips.

In general terms, any work directly attributable to another artist needs to be licensed by you with the money going to the artist. The going rate is about 8 cents per unit made... not per unit sold. So if you press up 500 CDs and give them all away, you still need to pay about $40. Making them available for digital download - even if it is for free - would require a separate license, I expect, because you have no control over how many copies are being made.

Now... derivative works.... Weird Al, I would pretty much bet, is required to license the song as if he were doing a cover of the song. This is where the 'fair use' laws allowing parody necessitate limitations. Even though the lyrics are his, the melodic content is clearly by another composer.

Now as the area gets even greyer.... like in your case.... it really comes down to 'how similar is it?' Generally you can borrow a few notes or a few words. People, I'm sure, do that all the time - even if inadvertently. It is the lyrics and the melody that are copyrighted entities though. If in doubt, contact the publisher of the song and see what they think. If you don't, you risk them approaching you and telling you what they think... and you don't want that.

Ultimately, in these grey area cases, these things are often ruled on by a judge. If you'd rather avoid the expense of court costs.... do what you need to do to be safe about it.

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.
#13
Quote by YetAnotherMuso
Thanks man, that's a helpful post.


I'd say it was if you were actually planning on taking legal advice from an INTERNET FORUM.
#14
Quote by Zycho
I'd say it was if you were actually planning on taking legal advice from an INTERNET FORUM.


That it would be, IF I was doing that. Fact of the matter is, as is clearly expressed in my first post, it's an idle thought that I wanted opinions on, I neither wanted nor expected the definitive answer from UG. So a post stating the bleeding obvious that I should consult an actual qualified professional before I actually put it on my CD is not needed.
#15
In this case, better to contact their publisher rather than a lawyer. If the publisher is good with it, then regardless of what any lawyer says, all is good. If the publisher isn't good with it.... they'll probably get a lawyer THEN.

In general terms, yes, seeking advice of an entertainment lawyer is a step too many people are too willing to avoid.

To draw an analogy here.... you want to build a fence on what you believe to be your property line. You could spend all kinds of money getting a survey to determine where, exactly, the property line is. Or, you could ask your neighbour, "I plan on putting up a fence from here to here. Is that okay with you?" Faster. Easier. Cheaper. Builds friendlier relationships.

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.
#16
Quote by axemanchris
In this case, better to contact their publisher rather than a lawyer. If the publisher is good with it, then regardless of what any lawyer says, all is good. If the publisher isn't good with it.... they'll probably get a lawyer THEN.

In general terms, yes, seeking advice of an entertainment lawyer is a step too many people are too willing to avoid.

To draw an analogy here.... you want to build a fence on what you believe to be your property line. You could spend all kinds of money getting a survey to determine where, exactly, the property line is. Or, you could ask your neighbour, "I plan on putting up a fence from here to here. Is that okay with you?" Faster. Easier. Cheaper. Builds friendlier relationships.

CT


Yeah, you're right CT, I actually did email the guy in charge of licensing and publishing a little while ago, I haven't heard back from him yet though so I thought I'd just get some thoughts from UG. I figure they probably won't have a problem with it, I mean it's not like I'm expecting to make any money from this release...but it is an interesting question, at what point does it become your work and not theirs.
#17
Australia has different copyright laws/procedures to america (and other countries as well, I guess). While the posters in this thread have given good advice, it's probably still worth your while to go thorugh
http://www.copyright.org.au/
if you haven't already.

By the way, I'm from Coonabarabran - gotta love the central west!
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#18
You'll have to ask whoever deals with his copyright, I believe.

Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip had to do that with Radiohead's song in the background of one of their songs anyway, had to release it late because of it.
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