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Nineteen Eighty-Four

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(@amazing_ness)
Estimable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 61
Topic starter  

As an aspiring young musician, I want to record an album. I am also very fond of literature, and I am currently reading 1984, by George Orwell.

I've decided to combine them, and do an album on 1984.

Would this be considered copyright infringement? I'm not sure, but I think it would be legal because 1984 is a book, not a musical piece, and could be said that I am not violating copyright because it exists as a book and not music, but it would be illegal because I am taking the plotline and morphing it into something else.

Help please.

(Ps.) I live in Canada.

Hey.


   
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(@alangreen)
Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5342
 

The whole question could be a bit of a minefield. Let's strip it down to basic basics.

Is this a commercial project - meaning are you going for a distribution deal once you've written the album.

Will the album follow the story from the book?

If the answer is Yes and Yes, then you should talk to the George Orwell estate about a license. Be prepared to stump up an obscene amount of cash for it up front, and be prepared for it costing a slice of your profit for every copy sold.

If the answer to the second question is No, then the assumption is you're using the book as inspiration only and not reflecting the story in the songs (a song called "Thought Police" but banging on about Tony Blair (British PM), for example) would not require a license.

In between is a very grey area, inhabited by lawyers, leeches, parasites and other lowlife out to make money off the back of someone else's idea. Tread carefully.

Best,

A :-)

"Be good at what you can do" - Fingerbanger"
I have always felt that it is better to do what is beautiful than what is 'right'" - Eliot Fisk
Wedding music and guitar lessons in Essex. Listen at: http://www.rollmopmusic.co.uk


   
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(@amazing_ness)
Estimable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 61
Topic starter  

Well, actually, the answers are "No" and "Yes"

I'm gonna record it, and if one of my friends want to listen to it, I'm gonna charge them $1.50 (roughly the amount of money to buy a CD-R to record it on).

And it's essentially going to follow the story...yes.

Hey.


   
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(@alangreen)
Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5342
 

You're on thin ice the second you start charging people for something, because that makes you a distributor.

Have a talk with your local Musicians' Union - they will have legal eagles who have far more in-depth knowlege about this sort of thing than I do. It might cost you a few bucks, but better that than being sued for five years' historic royalties.

Best

A :-)

"Be good at what you can do" - Fingerbanger"
I have always felt that it is better to do what is beautiful than what is 'right'" - Eliot Fisk
Wedding music and guitar lessons in Essex. Listen at: http://www.rollmopmusic.co.uk


   
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(@amazing_ness)
Estimable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 61
Topic starter  

i see. thanks

Hey.


   
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 P0RR
(@p0rr)
Estimable Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 141
 

"Meanwhile, Bowie worked on a musical adaptation of George Orwell's 1984, but was denied the rights by Orwell's widow. He rewrote the material as Diamond Dogs"

http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/David-Bowie-Biography/0850F70BB4F226AF482568A2000C447C

Best of luck whichever way you decide to go with this project...


   
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(@alangreen)
Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5342
 

OK - I checked this out last night with a girl who did legal contracts for the BBC before we hired her to come into Investment Banking paralegal.

You should approach the Orwell estate now and let them know what you're doing, and ask them to ok it. Make sure you keep copies of letters/ e-mails so that you can prove you went for consent.

If you're lucky - some estates will, some won't - they'll say that you can have a licence for X years and maybe won't charge you much for it. Some allocate the licences for free, some don't. I suspect with something as big as 1984 you won't get it for free.

The worst case scenario is if the estate says "We don't want to be associated with it", and then you're damned if you publish/ record/ distribute/ sell, and condemned to the underground if you don't.

Do keep copies of the letters requesting consents and licences. If the estate doesn't reply after a reasonable time ("reasonable time" is one of those great legal phrases that no two lawyers agree on) and a resonable number of chasers, you should be ok to go ahead. Then, if the estate comes after you later you can show the requests in court to prove that you weren't trying to get something for nothing and can say that the failure to reply was reasonably taken as an implied consent.

This is under English law. US Courts might adopt a decision from an English Court as a competent jurisdiction, or might take a parochial attitude and say that it shouldn't apply to the US even though it applies everywhere else on the planet. I'm not familiar with Canadian Law, and nor is my source.

Best,

A :-)

"Be good at what you can do" - Fingerbanger"
I have always felt that it is better to do what is beautiful than what is 'right'" - Eliot Fisk
Wedding music and guitar lessons in Essex. Listen at: http://www.rollmopmusic.co.uk


   
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(@amazing_ness)
Estimable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 61
Topic starter  

Hmm.
Well, thanks for your help.

Hey.


   
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(@misanthrope)
Noble Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 2261
 

Well, actually, the answers are "No" and "Yes"

I'm gonna record it, and if one of my friends want to listen to it, I'm gonna charge them $1.50 (roughly the amount of money to buy a CD-R to record it on).

And it's essentially going to follow the story...yes.That might turn out to be your green light as you'd not be charging for the actual compisition itself, just the duplication and handling. If you follow Alan's advice and make it clear that you are charging for handling, not the work, you may well be in the clear.

ChordsAndScales.co.uk - Guitar Chord/Scale Finder/Viewer


   
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