How do I go about creating a derivative musical work legally and where do I start? 5 Answers as of August 12, 2015

I want to remake/cover a copyrighted song. However, I only want to use its verses. I would like to record the verses over my own original music. I would also like to use some of my own lyrics, adding them with the copyrighted verses. The result I want to have is a song completely different from the copyrighted song, but I still want to use the copyrighted song's verses. Basically, I would like to create a derivative work. What licenses should I obtain? What steps do I need to take in order to obtain the correct license? Do I need a lawyer for transactional purposes? If not, is there a "correct way" or a good template document to use when requesting permission to use part of a copyrighted song?

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Banner & Witcoff, Ltd. | Ernie Linek
You need a copyright lawyer to guide you through the process. It is NOT a do-it-yourself project - as too many things can go wrong. You can start the process by contacting the Copyright Clearance Center in Danvers, MA -
Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
Replied: 8/12/2015
Lawyer for Independent Media
Lawyer for Independent Media | Sue Basko
You need to contact the publisher or publishers of the songwriters and ask their permission. If they say yes, they will most likely take it from there and tell you what terms they want and what sort of contract. They do not need to tell you yes. They can tell you no. If they tell you yes, they can set any price or terms and you can try to negotiate if needed. If they tell you no and if you go ahead and infringe on the copyright, your infringement will be considered knowing and willful. This will put you in a very bad position legally, so do not do it. Yes, of course I think you should have a lawyer help you with this and look after your interests. If you have the money to professionally record and release a song, you should include a lawyer in your budget. If you do not have the money to professionally record and release a song, it will be hard to convince the publishers that they should trust you to share their copyright. As to using stock forms, those should never be used.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 8/11/2015
Sebby Law Office
Sebby Law Office | Jayne Sebby
If the work is well known, it's probably registered with ASCAP, BMI, Harry Fox, or some similar agency who handles licensing. If you can't find the agency on the work itself, each agency should have a listing of its songs. If the work isn't registered with a rights agency, contact the lyricist/composer directly and negotiate the rights yourself. You can also hire an attorney if you run into problems.
Answer Applies to: Nebraska
Replied: 8/11/2015
Roe Law Firm
Roe Law Firm | Theodore M. Roe
You will need a copyright license from the composer or whoever, holds the copyright on the composition (lyrics) and music if you are using any of the music. I recommend that you get a qualified intellectual property attorney as this is a very technical area of law.
Answer Applies to: Oregon
Replied: 8/11/2015
Law Office of Kirk Buhler
Law Office of Kirk Buhler | Kirk A Buhler
Musical works are covered under copyright for "artistic expression". For protecting your derivative work visit the copyright office at: Because it is a derivative work you may need authorization from the original creator. Copyrights are good for the life of the creator plus number of years (like 99 years in some countries). Depending upon the creator and your derivative work, artists can grant approval. In general the owner of the work will have their own contract. I suggest you contact the owner of the original music first to determine if they will allow derivative works. Some artists do not allow derivative works, while other welcome derivative musical work. Depending upon the popularity of the musical artist process can be different.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 8/11/2015
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