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  • Copyright on Historic speeches

    First of all, apologies in advance for this rambling post...

    I posted this question over on KVR and so far I've had only one useful response...I'm hoping for something a little more helpful here. It's very rare I use samples at all, but I thought a couple of spoken samples (specifically, old political speeches) might fit with a track I've been working on lately. So I dug around a bit and found a speech by Edison 'Electricity and Progress' and a more famous speech (actually part of a TV interview) from J.Robert Oppenheimer (the 'I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds' speech). The contrast between the two speeches is quite profound, and it actually makes the track into something far more than an instrumental with some vocal samples tacked on.

    I won't mention the site's name, just in case, but at first glance it seemed to take copyright seriously and implied that whatever was on there, was in the public domain. HOWEVER, in my subsequent googling about, I discovered that Martin Luther King's famous 'I have a dream..' speech, which one would have assumed would be in the public domain, is very much copyright-protected, and the holder of that copyright (EMI, subsequently Sony) vigorously defended it. And guess what? You got it, the site where I found my two speeches also had a copy of this MLK speech, freely downloadable in convenient MP3 form.

    So my question is, how do I find out who, if anyone, holds the copyright on these speeches? If I can find that out, I can ask permission to use and hope they grant it. If not, I'll have to exclude it from the album and record a new track to replace it :(
    My new album is available now, here: https://thoughtexperiment.bandcamp.c.../supersymmetry
    Check out my (hopelessly out-of-date) SoundCloud page: https://soundcloud.com/thought_experiment

  • #2
    Originally posted by Thought Experiment View Post
    First of all, apologies in advance for this rambling post...

    I posted this question over on KVR and so far I've had only one useful response...I'm hoping for something a little more helpful here. It's very rare I use samples at all, but I thought a couple of spoken samples (specifically, old political speeches) might fit with a track I've been working on lately. So I dug around a bit and found a speech by Edison 'Electricity and Progress' and a more famous speech (actually part of a TV interview) from J.Robert Oppenheimer (the 'I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds' speech). The contrast between the two speeches is quite profound, and it actually makes the track into something far more than an instrumental with some vocal samples tacked on.

    I won't mention the site's name, just in case, but at first glance it seemed to take copyright seriously and implied that whatever was on there, was in the public domain. HOWEVER, in my subsequent googling about, I discovered that Martin Luther King's famous 'I have a dream..' speech, which one would have assumed would be in the public domain, is very much copyright-protected, and the holder of that copyright (EMI, subsequently Sony) vigorously defended it. And guess what? You got it, the site where I found my two speeches also had a copy of this MLK speech, freely downloadable in convenient MP3 form.

    So my question is, how do I find out who, if anyone, holds the copyright on these speeches? If I can find that out, I can ask permission to use and hope they grant it. If not, I'll have to exclude it from the album and record a new track to replace it :(
    http://www.worldcat.org/title/decisi...oclc/367612357
    and
    https://archive.org/details/EDIS-SRP-0158-12
    also http://www.nps.gov/edis/photosmultim...l-speeches.htm
    BANDCAMP https://greghooper2.bandcamp.com/

    Comment


    • #3
      Greg,
      Thank you so much for your help - looks like my track can be released after all :D
      My new album is available now, here: https://thoughtexperiment.bandcamp.c.../supersymmetry
      Check out my (hopelessly out-of-date) SoundCloud page: https://soundcloud.com/thought_experiment

      Comment


      • #4
        Wanna stay in the loop?

        Talk to the Hoop(er).

        Comment


        • #5
          Well, it looks like I spoke too soon. One of the more useful bits of advice pointed me here: http://www.newmediarights.org/busine..._public_domain
          I contacted them directly, and it appears unlikely that the Edison speech is in the public domain, even though one of the websites offering it for download clearly labelled it as such. Since ignorance is not usually an acceptable defense in this sort of thing, it seems like too great a risk to just go ahead and use it.
          Similarly, the Oppenheimer speech was tagged something like 'free for the community', although I now believe the copyright for the recording is held by NBC Studios. So I doubt whether the licence to use that is going to come cheap, assuming I live long enough to track down the right department...

          So, sadly, I've decided not to release this track after all - it doesn't really work without the speeches, I can't process the speeches beyond recognition because their words are conveying a story, and I doubt very much whether the album (on which the track was to appear) will make enough money to fund sample clearance. So it's back to the drawing board (or keyboard anyway) to knock out another 5-minute techno toon..
          My new album is available now, here: https://thoughtexperiment.bandcamp.c.../supersymmetry
          Check out my (hopelessly out-of-date) SoundCloud page: https://soundcloud.com/thought_experiment

          Comment


          • #6
            Is this a mechanical copyright thing?

            It could be the studios etc hold the rights to their recording but not the actual text of the speeches. Meaning, if the text was PD then you could re-record them. If you could find someone with the right voice. Or use a speech synth for some hip, post-modern twist.
            Latest release: never to be repeated

            Hearthis | Soundcloud

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by GaryG View Post
              Is this a mechanical copyright thing?

              It could be the studios etc hold the rights to their recording but not the actual text of the speeches. Meaning, if the text was PD then you could re-record them. If you could find someone with the right voice. Or use a speech synth for some hip, post-modern twist.
              The text of the first speech (by Edison) is definitely public domain so I'd be OK there, but the Oppenheimer text is much later (about 1965) so both the recording and the content is copyright-protected. A very small loophole means that I could use the phrase 'Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds' because he's actually quoting text that was written a couple of millenia ago! Obviously, devoid of context like this the phrase isn't nearly as chilling. The problem I have with making this 'legal' is I've been spoiled by hearing it the way it is now - I don't mean this in a conceited way, so I'll try to explain (better get ready to ramble...)

              Before I started composing this song, I had a title 'Technocracy', a key, and a tempo. In my head, I imagined this arrangement with electronic rhythms behind a kind of old-fashioned political speech. I started hunting around the interweb and came across this fantastic Thomas Edison speech that he'd recorded onto one of his plastic cylinders, expounding the joys of electricity with this P.T.Barnum-like 'roll up, roll up' enthusiasm. And it was old, and it was about technology - so, a lucky strike. On the same site there were shedloads of other political/historic speeches, including this famous one by Oppenheimer, which I recalled having heard before, but not for a while, so I played it for no other reason than to listen to it. And when I heard it, I was stricken by the contrast between Edison's boyish enthusiasm and Oppenheimer's world-weary desolation, and that made me think of the extremes of what technology can do...It can light our homes and streets, keep us warm, give us employment...and it can also blow our planet to smithereens...
              So now, pretty much by chance, I had a 'message song' - and I'm a great believer in serendipity so I downloaded the speech and incorporated it into the outro (Edison had the intro), thinking that, because the site they came from didn't mention copyright at all, they must all have been public domain and so I didn't need to worry about the legality of the samples. It was only later on, when I noticed they also had a speech which I KNEW was copyright-protected (MLK's 'I have a dream' speech), that I realized I needed to dig a little deeper.
              So, to cut a long story a bit longer , all this time I've been listening to this the way serendipity planned it, so that whatever I might do to make it legal I will always feel I've ruined it.
              What the hell, it's only art :D
              My new album is available now, here: https://thoughtexperiment.bandcamp.c.../supersymmetry
              Check out my (hopelessly out-of-date) SoundCloud page: https://soundcloud.com/thought_experiment

              Comment


              • #8
                That's a shame, sounds like an inspired idea.

                Just seen the responses to your question on KVR. Balanced, informed advice as always where copyright is concerned. ;)
                Latest release: never to be repeated

                Hearthis | Soundcloud

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by GaryG View Post
                  That's a shame, sounds like an inspired idea.

                  Just seen the responses to your question on KVR. Balanced, informed advice as always where copyright is concerned. ;)
                  :lol: Well, I thought 'nothing ventured, nothing gained' and that's pretty much how it turned out
                  My new album is available now, here: https://thoughtexperiment.bandcamp.c.../supersymmetry
                  Check out my (hopelessly out-of-date) SoundCloud page: https://soundcloud.com/thought_experiment

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    This may not be sound advice, but if you feel strongly about the track, I would do it regardless.

                    You probably wouldn't want to include it on any album, nor would you want to accept money for it.

                    Do it if you feel it has a message worth telling.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by aoVI View Post
                      This may not be sound advice, but if you feel strongly about the track, I would do it regardless.

                      You probably wouldn't want to include it on any album, nor would you want to accept money for it.

                      Do it if you feel it has a message worth telling.
                      I know what you're saying - I do feel strongly attached to the track because it was one of those rare occasions when all the pieces just kind of fell into place, almost as if it was creating itself. The message isn't particularly revelatory or even new, what matters to me is the way it revealed itself without any conscious guidance from me.

                      So, I probably won't bury it without trace, maybe post it as a private track on Soundcloud and allow very limited access.
                      My new album is available now, here: https://thoughtexperiment.bandcamp.c.../supersymmetry
                      Check out my (hopelessly out-of-date) SoundCloud page: https://soundcloud.com/thought_experiment

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Thought Experiment View Post
                        Originally posted by aoVI View Post
                        This may not be sound advice, but if you feel strongly about the track, I would do it regardless.

                        You probably wouldn't want to include it on any album, nor would you want to accept money for it.

                        Do it if you feel it has a message worth telling.
                        I know what you're saying - I do feel strongly attached to the track because it was one of those rare occasions when all the pieces just kind of fell into place, almost as if it was creating itself. The message isn't particularly revelatory or even new, what matters to me is the way it revealed itself without any conscious guidance from me.

                        So, I probably won't bury it without trace, maybe post it as a private track on Soundcloud and allow very limited access.
                        I don't have any detailed knowledge of copyright law, public domain etc, but the fact that these seem to be disputed means that the speeches may be in Public Domain by now.

                        I used the Oppenheimer a couple of years ago:

                        https://soundcloud.com/tuonela-1/destroyer


                        No-one's come knocking yet...

                        If you're not offering the track for sale, then it seems unlikely there will be a problem. :dunno:
                        http://soundcloud.com/tuonela-1
                        http://tuonela.bandcamp.com/

                        I've been imitated so well I've heard people copy my mistakes -- Jimi Hendrix

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Excellent use of the sample :thumbsup: , really intense track. As luck(!) would have it, the Oppenheimer speech is a bit better known at the moment because it's been used in the trailer for the new 'Godzilla' movie. I have it on pretty good authority that neither recording is yet in the public domain, and they're unlikely to be so in my lifetime. I'm certainly not going to risk selling it as part of the album, which I'll be releasing on a 'Pay-what-you-like' basis. Maybe I'll quietly post it on Soundcloud as an album teaser...
                          My new album is available now, here: https://thoughtexperiment.bandcamp.c.../supersymmetry
                          Check out my (hopelessly out-of-date) SoundCloud page: https://soundcloud.com/thought_experiment

                          Comment

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