General Question

Atheros's avatar

How to sell cover songs without infringing copyright?

Asked by Atheros (320points) January 24th, 2012

I have seen many good artist on YouTube that make covers of popular songs. Some even sell every song they record. As I am starting with recording cover songs myself, I would like to know what needs to be done to sell a song and not infringe copyright at the same time?
All I have noticed so far is that they slightly change the lyrics. And of course they record the instruments on their own.
Is there anything else I’m missing that needs to be done?

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6 Answers

Kayak8's avatar

The biggest step is getting the permission of the copyright holder. Changing the lyrics doesn’t hold up in court. Playing your own instruments is to be expected, but does not remove your responsibility for seeking permission to use the song. If you are just sharing with friends, there is no problem.

One way around this is to perform songs that are in the public domain (no one has a copyright anymore or the author of the material is unknown). Keep in mind that when artists record their own work, they own the music, they own the lyrics, and they often own their particular recording of it (performance). Just because someone else is singing the words or playing their own instruments doesn’t absolve them of the need to get permission to profit from someone else’s intellectual property.

Atheros's avatar

@Kayak8 Thank you for your answer. However I don’t understand how come various YouTube artists can sell cover songs on iTunes without punishment. Some even sell whole albums with their covers.

marinelife's avatar

@Atheros They have received permission to sell the song. Then they have to keep track of how many they sell to pay royalties.

Here is an article that tells you how.

Atheros's avatar

@marinelife Good God, that is a lot of info. Thank you very much!

Schuyler88's avatar

One thing to note is the purpose of the cover song. If it is just straight then there is a copyright problem with making money. A way around that, however, is if your song is a parody. If so then you don’t need permission. Weird Al doesn’t pay for the songs he covers.

Atheros's avatar

@Schuyler88 Thank you for answering.
If I remember right Weird Al once “didn’t get Gaga’s permission”, so I guess he does that. But then again, I might be wrong.
Let me give you an example!
This (awesome) guy, Tyler Ward. Every song is a cover, not a parody. He sells them all. How?

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