Question About Trib Bands and Copyright Laws

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Question About Trib Bands and Copyright Laws

Postby JRNYMAN » Tue Jun 04, 2013 3:07 pm

It seems to me that tribute bands are, by design, the epitome of someone/something that could be sued for copyright infringement. I mean they are, after-all, reproducing an exact likeness of a song that is protected by copyright and doing so for the purpose of financial gain.

So, my question is this... Do tribute bands who make it their livelihood to perform one particular band's material exclusively have to seek permission from the label and/or the band?
The reason I'm confused about this issue is because in some cases you hear about individuals contacting the band asking for permission and provide them with a written transcript of exactly how/when/where a particular song would be used (Ref. Monster, The Sopranos, etc.) On the other hand, I've never heard of ANY local cover band having to get written permission to reproduce a band's material even though they did it on a nightly basis and seek to make a living doing it.

Is it because the band's actual recording isn't being used for personal gain? Or something along those lines? Jeremy, Jim, Anyone...?
Last edited by JRNYMAN on Wed Jun 05, 2013 3:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Question About Trib Bands and Copyright Laws

Postby steveo777 » Tue Jun 04, 2013 3:33 pm

Hell, I don't know. My GUESS is that it requires licensing for reproduction, recording, broadcast and use in films and docu's, etc. I don't believe live, impromtu performances require licensing or permission.
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Re: Question About Trib Bands and Copyright Laws

Postby Don » Tue Jun 04, 2013 5:25 pm

Essentially, any outlet where people can hear music must obtain blanket licenses from ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC (THE BIG 3). This covers the song royalties for tribute bands, karaoke, etc. The fee also looks at the size of the venues. Bigger venues pay bigger licensing fees.The blanket licenses also save music users the paperwork, trouble and expense of finding and negotiating licenses with all of the copyright owners of the works that might be used during a year and helps prevent the user from even inadvertently infringing on the copyrights of THE BIG 3 members and many foreign writers whose music is licensed by THE BIG 3 in the U.S.
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Re: Question About Trib Bands and Copyright Laws

Postby Don » Tue Jun 04, 2013 5:39 pm

Bands occasionally will go after tribute bands though, if the band is using any signage or marketing material that may cause confusion or imply that there is a legitimate connection between the bands.

Bon Jovi and Led Zepplin have both done it and a few years ago, if you remember, Neal was up in arms about some shady promotional material for Hugo's band that turned into some type of fiasco.
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Re: Question About Trib Bands and Copyright Laws

Postby Jeremey » Tue Jun 04, 2013 11:54 pm

We needed Journey's legal team to sign off on a release in order for Frontiers to play EPCOT in 2006. They refused to allow it. I was told this decision did NOT come from Perry's legal team, but the band's.

In 2011 we were offered the spot at EPCOT again. This time I had a relationship with their management and spoke directly to their attorney. I was told in order to to get approval, we had to place a notice on our site that we were not endorsed by, nor associated with the band Journey in any way. We were to remove any and all videos of our band performing any Journey songs from the internet (every video I had uploaded over 9 years was deleted). We were also told our logo, which was a "grunge" logo of a tall empire looking building with feathery wings and a big star in the middle was too similar to Journey's scarab logo and we could not use it anymore.

Bottom line, bands have no say over their songs being performed live. Venues pay licensing fees for that sort of thing.

Videos are no-no without express written permission of the copyright holder.

For tribute bands, the grey area becomes how the use of images and likeness are used to market and portray the band. For example, our logo – which looked NOTHING like a scarab – was deemed "too similar" in likeness to the Journey logo. Of course there's dozens of Journey tribute bands that actually use Journey artwork and logos to promote the band, so it's not something attorneys go after unless it reaches a certain level of awareness. Apparently Journey/Neal had issues with Hugo's band being promoted as "Evolution" in tiny little letters with GIANT "JOURNEY" in the posters and Hugo's likeness, cultivated to resemble Steve Perry. I think there were also some promoters that got in trouble promoting Hugo as Steve Perry, but I don't remember for sure.

Technically you can't use the name of the band in the name of your tribute band. Some bands are clever like "Blonde Jovi" or "The Sheagles" but other bands actually use the band name in their name ... There's a Led Zeppelin tribute called "Led Zeppelin II" and several Journey tributes that use the actual name "Journey" in the title of their band ("Journey Revisited," etc).

Trademark holders (ie, the actual bands) generally have a track record of enforcing their trademark, otherwise it leads to bad legal precedent if they aren't aggressively protecting their brand. But as a general rule of thumb, I guess it depends on how much attention bands draw to themselves and how pissed off the band gets/how much time they want to spend pursuing it.
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Re: Question About Trib Bands and Copyright Laws

Postby Jeremey » Tue Jun 04, 2013 11:58 pm

This was the logo that looked to similar to Journey's "Scarab" logo: :?

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Re: Question About Trib Bands and Copyright Laws

Postby Arkansas » Wed Jun 05, 2013 1:31 am

I doubt the guys from Iron Maiden have any problems with this... :shock:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XebvpPtebaI
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1G4f1KrlSg


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Re: Question About Trib Bands and Copyright Laws

Postby JRNYMAN » Wed Jun 05, 2013 6:12 am

Thanks for the replies - especially Jeremy and Don for their in-depth info. It's obvious, to me anyway, that the decision whether or not to pursue legal action really does depend on the band (and its representatives) that is being tributed. Jeremy mentioned the situation about a trib band including the actual band's name in theirs and it seems some bands have a problem with it and some don't. Citing the examples already given and add to that a couple of very successful trib acts who have actually been celebrated by their namesakes: Dread Zepplin and Australian Pink Floyd. Both of these acts are VERY good at what they do - especially the latter. I saw them this past April and OMG! If you close your eyes or didn't have line of sight you'd easily be convinced it was the real thing. In a discussion a while back, someone said that Gilmour had actually hired them to play at a party of his! That particular example has all the things against them from a legal standpoint: Easy to become confused about who is playing the music, real band's name is incorporated into the trib act's and they've most definitely brought a lot of attention to themselves. And the big one here is that they have actually released a DVD/CD.

Then Queen goes and enters new territory by actually producing and supporting their own tribute band which is weird to some extent. Not knocking it at all - they're great and having a big wallet behind them ensures they'll stay that way.

One follow up question about the licensing fees paid by the venues... How far down the line do those fees go? I mean, do local bars who book an act have to pay them and does it apply only to tribute acts exclusively or to all cover bands who play a variety of music originally recorded by someone else?

This is interesting stuff and really shows just how grey the area can be as well as how varied the enforcement of such laws is.

Thanks again!

Steve
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Re: Question About Trib Bands and Copyright Laws

Postby slucero » Wed Jun 05, 2013 12:42 pm

technically - anytime a copyrighted song is played or performed.. a performance fee is owed the creator...

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Re: Question About Trib Bands and Copyright Laws

Postby scarygirl » Wed Jun 05, 2013 2:21 pm

If I remember my media law class correctly, I believe Tribute bands and the like would be protected as a form of parody. I could be wrong.

JRNYMAN wrote:It seems to me that tribute bands are, by design, the epitome of someone/something that could be sued for copyright infringement. I mean they are, after-all, reproducing an exact likeness of a song that is protected by copyright and doing so for the purpose of financial gain.

So, my question is this... Do tribute bands who make it their livelihood to perform one particular band's material exclusively have to seek permission from the label and/or the band?
The reason I'm confused about this issue is because in some cases you hear about individuals contacting the band asking for permission and provide them with a written transcript of exactly how/when/where a particular song would be used (Ref. Monster, The Sopranos, etc.) On the other hand, I've never heard of ANY band having to get written permission to reproduce a band's material even though they did it on a nightly basis and seek to make a living doing it.

Is it because the band's actual recording isn't being used for personal gain? Or something along those lines? Jeremy, Jim, Anyone...?
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Re: Question About Trib Bands and Copyright Laws

Postby sniper16 » Thu Jun 06, 2013 4:04 am

in the states, any one who plays music be it radio, sporting venue or bar must join bmi or ascap or the like and pay a regular fee say 500.00 or 1000.00 just as an example and then the publishing is payed to a band based on a formula of say dont stop beliving is played 25 times a month per club and another song is played 1 time a year, and the pool of money is split, any body can play anybodys songs, so journey could play any steve perry song without permission or recor it, unless they have entered into a secondary agreement not to play something in order to get something else out of the deal
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Re: Question About Trib Bands and Copyright Laws

Postby lowdbrent » Wed Jun 12, 2013 11:24 am

Anyone can play any song they wish in public. BUT, if money is changing hands, then someone has to pay royalties. Music venues cover themselves with ASCAP, BMI, SESAC etc. You can record any parody or cover song you want to, as long as you negotiate and pay the owner of the copyrighted material royalties. There are agencies like Harry Fox that take care of that as well.

If the band name and logo are trademarked, and you infringe on that, you can get in trouble.

Legally, the real bands can't keep you from performing, but they can make getting bookings harder. Imitations are everywhere. On many levels cover bands are just human juke boxes. The people aren't there to really see the band per se, but enjoy a live performance of the music. If they were there to see the band, the band would play originals and not be living on the coat tails of the original artist.
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Re: Question About Trib Bands and Copyright Laws

Postby Don » Wed Jun 12, 2013 11:41 am

sniper16 wrote:in the states, any one who plays music be it radio, sporting venue or bar must join bmi or ascap or the like and pay a regular fee say 500.00 or 1000.00 just as an example and then the publishing is payed to a band based on a formula of say dont stop beliving is played 25 times a month per club and another song is played 1 time a year, and the pool of money is split, any body can play anybodys songs, so journey could play any steve perry song without permission or recor it, unless they have entered into a secondary agreement not to play something in order to get something else out of the deal


If you record someone's song, you have to pay them a royalty of course. Also, if you want to include that song on any type of video, you MUST have prior permission as different rules apply for that.
That's why Ramona Diaz put a thank you to Steve Perry at the end of her Arnel Doc. It was a big deal having him signoff on song usage. Imagine that film not being able to have DSB in it's soundtrack while having it as the film's name.
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Re: Question About Trib Bands and Copyright Laws

Postby Arkansas » Wed Jun 19, 2013 2:03 am

Here's another question. Was watching the NBA Finals the other night, and at the arena, they start playing Van Halen. What are the legals around that? Not only playing it for the local crowd, but through network broadcast, the whole country (plus) too. So who pays VH...the Spurs, the AT&T Center, the NBA, or ABC?

I can understand the local venue/org/team having an agreement with the music industry or a specific band. But when it's sanctioned by the NBA, and on network tv, does it get more complicated? I'd be really surprised if some savvy band lawyer hasn't already dug into this.

And btw, if the NBA actually owns all of the broadcast, do they have any say-so in what music the venue plays? And lets just say there's something questionable in a live broadcast. Does ABC have the right to dump it or mute it?


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Re: Question About Trib Bands and Copyright Laws

Postby JRNYMAN » Wed Jun 19, 2013 4:07 am

Arkansas wrote:Here's another question. Was watching the NBA Finals the other night, and at the arena, they start playing Van Halen. What are the legals around that? Not only playing it for the local crowd, but through network broadcast, the whole country (plus) too. So who pays VH...the Spurs, the AT&T Center, the NBA, or ABC?

I can understand the local venue/org/team having an agreement with the music industry or a specific band. But when it's sanctioned by the NBA, and on network tv, does it get more complicated? I'd be really surprised if some savvy band lawyer hasn't already dug into this.

And btw, if the NBA actually owns all of the broadcast, do they have any say-so in what music the venue plays? And lets just say there's something questionable in a live broadcast. Does ABC have the right to dump it or mute it?


later~

Dayummm! All good questions! Never thought about it from that angle. That scenario seems like it transfers the obligation/liability for fees from one entity to the next, to the next, and so on.

EDIT: A quick search and I think I actually found the answer to that one. It falls under a blanket "performance royalties" scenario as explained here:
http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/ ... lties7.htm
There are actually 9 pages that cover the subject of copyrighted music and how the fees apply to the various types of use of the copyrighted (copywritten...?) material.
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