Legal Question in Intellectual Property in Michigan
I am currently in a band and we would like to do a cover (remake) of a song that is already released by a different band. we would like to know what the laws are that effect us, such as can we add lyrics to the song, do we need permission from the band, thank you for any help you can give
1 Answer from Attorneys
Re: Copywrite laws
To cover or remake an existing composition, your band will need to secure what is called a "mechanical license." The license must be obtained from the publisher of the composition. The publisher is responsible for making the requisite usage payments to the copyright owners of the song; the lyricist and the song writer. The band or group who recorded the song may not be the copyright holders of the song, so your first job will be to ascertain the publisher of the song which is usually found on the tape or cd's accompanying printed material. Next you will want to contact the publisher to find out the cost of obtaining a mechanical license. Contacting the publisher will be especially important since your question states that you plan to change the song's wording.
You may find it helpful to contact The Harry Fox Agency, which is a clearinghouse for many U.S. music publishers. If the publisher you seek is affiliated with them, the Fox Agency will be able to handle the mechanical license for you. The url for the agency is: www.nmpa.org/hfa.html.
In any event, you will want to obtain permission from the publisher prior to expending any money on your remake since the song is protected from duplication under U.S. copyright laws.