What are the rules for using music written by non-U.S. songwriters?

Question:

My father and a group of people are producing a music CD. These songs are well known in South America. Can we sell this CD here in the United States? What are the laws governing this matter?

Answer:

If the songs are protected under copyright, then it would violate the law to reproduce the songs on a recording unless you first get permission from the song's owner, usually a music publisher.

Songs written by songwriters outside the U.S. are protected under U.S. copyright laws because of international treaties that grant protection to foreign authors. You can research the ownership of songs at www.harryfox.com, www.ascap.com, or www.bmi.com.

In the U.S., there is a system known as a compulsory mechanical license that permits you to reproduce the songs by paying an established fee -- approximately $.08 per song per recording.

For more information on U.S. copyright laws, go to the copyright office site at www.copyright.gov and download Circular 50.

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