New lyrics to old tune. Copyright issues?

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Thread: New lyrics to old tune. Copyright issues?

  1. #1

    New lyrics to old tune. Copyright issues?

    I have started writing lyrics to a tune which undoubtedly has copyright (one of the 'Sound of Music' songs).
    The lyrics are a brexit parody.

    I would be very surprised if I'm allowed to publish it as it uses the old tune and much of the rhyme scheme - though totally different words.

    Would it be permissible if I made the music myself but to the same tune (or very close)?

    I wouldn't want to steal intellectual property but I'm unclear what the legal situation is. I say this because, many years ago, I bought a tape with new lyrics to popular songs. They were songs about an industrial dispute in the printing industry - songs like 'Build a Bonfire' (putting Rupert Murdoch on the top), and lyrics like 'If you think Rupert Murdoch is an old shitbag then smile, smile, smile. If you think the Sun is just a filthy rag, then smile, smile smile, smile smile etc (that was to the tune of that one about 'pack up your troubles in your old kit bag ...'

    Then there was 'Waltzing Matilda' when they sang '...and they sent me away to the dole...' (rather than sent me away to the war) - the other lyrics were changed too. There was a whole tapeful of them.

    So it has been done, but maybe no-one owned the copyright. Does anyone know how I could clarify this situation?

  2. #2
    I guess it depends on what you mean by publish -if it just your new lyrics, I don't see a problem, and I've never heard of a rhyme-scheme being copyrighted.
    or else all us rhymsters would be in trouble!

    the music for TSOM was composed by Rodgers with lyrics by Hammerstein - so if you were to publish the music with your own lyrics, perhaps give it the credit Rodgers and Istine - which has a ring to it. Unless it is a world-wide smash, I don't think RCA will be knocking on your door!

    So long, farewell? - bring it on.........
    grasp the mettle of things unsaid
    and strike the nail upon the head

  3. #3
    I would say you need to look into "fair use". Here is an article about it from Stanford University : fairuse dot stanford dot edu/ overview/ fair-use/ what-is-fair-use/

    and here is a page about it on a government website : www dot copyright dot gov/ fair-use/ more-info dot html

    and this article here tells you who owns the copyrights of Rogers and Hammerstein's work, and stuff about royalties and such. : pitchfork dot com/ news/ 90-of-ariana-grandes-7-rings-royalties-go-to-rodgers-and-hammerstein/ I am apparently not allowed to post links until I have more posts under my belt, I left the majority of the links URL's, but too out " h t t p s : // " in all cases. so just add that part in yourself and I guess you will be fine.

    Hmmm....ok, that didn't work either, and I tried sending it to you in a pm, but for the same reason in says I can't send any pm's (staff asside). Ok, I put in some spaces now, too. Take out spaces before you use them.

    ......changed dots to words. Now maybe?

  4. #4
    Beta Reader Princesisto's Avatar
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    Yes, and we could add the number of times that Abba's "Super Trooper" became "Pooper Scooper", about cleaning up dogs' droppings, once done by a Yorkshire local council!

    Taking your straight theoretical question, new words put to someone else's published music is called a "derivative work" and must have the composer's permission. If it is just a parody and all in good fun, you may actually get the composer's permission: just try, no cost in that.

    American courts have been rather loose with political parodies of copyrighted songs, due to Constitutional protections of free speech. However, I would advise contacting the copyrightholder as a better option than letting him sue you and putting up a human rights defence which may or may not succeed!

    However, you have a clear work-round: just change the song. A song can "remind you" of another song without being a flat-out copy. Many of my Princesssongs start as famous songs but, as the Princess says, "When they go up, you go down." Your parody will have more punch, I submit, if it has its own melody and may sound something like something from the Sound of Music without being an unimaginative, uncreative knock-off.

    Hope that helps!


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