Licensing a song for use in a mobile app
February 24, 2014 5:23 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to use the children's song: "There was an old lady who swallowed a fly" in an app for mobile phones. How can I find out who owns the rights to the song and get permission to use it? How much should I expect it to cost?

It was written by Alan Mills, who passed away in 1977.

I'm not looking to use a specific performance/recording of the song, only the lyrics and tune.
I am not resident in the U.S./Canada. The app would be for global distribution. Fair use wouldn't apply.
posted by Gomez_in_the_South to Law & Government (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Try contacting ASCAP.
posted by cazoo at 5:34 PM on February 24, 2014

I found info at BMI and The Harry Fox Agency that indicates it's controlled by Peermusic. A search at Peer's website seems to say the same. They have it under the name "I Know An Old Lady (Who Swallowed A Fly)".
posted by fishmasta at 6:31 PM on February 24, 2014

Response by poster: Search results from the ASCAP site, show a few results - but don't include an Alan Mills version, which I assume would be the original.
Peermusic also seems to point to a specific recording, performed by Pete Seeger in 1993, rather than the original song written int the 1950's.
posted by Gomez_in_the_South at 10:22 PM on February 24, 2014

Best answer: If you were in the US, the answer would (I think) be pretty simple. You're not looking to license a particular recording of the song; you want to be able to record a version yourself for your app. This means you want a mechanical license, which is administered by the Harry Fox Agency. Mechanical licenses have a statutory rate, which you can find here. HFA knows that song as "There Was An Old Woman", song code T2491T.

You're not in the US. So probably this question in the HFA FAQ applies to you:
What if I want to manufacture and distribute outside of the US, how do I obtain permission?

You will need to contact the foreign society within the country in which you will be manufacturing and distributing the product. For additional information, visit HFA International Monitoring.
Which is to say, you still want a mechanical license. I just don't know who you'd pay for it, or how much it would cost.
posted by hades at 11:58 PM on February 24, 2014

According to your profile, the people you probably want to talk to are SAMRO, and you probably want a General License. But they seem really focused on licensing recorded music for public performance, so I don't know. They'd probably be the ones to ask, in any case.
posted by hades at 12:09 AM on February 25, 2014

Response by poster: Hades - assume that the app was produced in the U.S. would I still need to get a license for each country where the app would be sold?

I have a presence in both South Africa (as my profile suggests), and Singapore - so I'll follow up with the agencies in both these places.
posted by Gomez_in_the_South at 1:04 AM on February 25, 2014

I don't really know how international licensing works, so I'd love to know what you end up with, once you've figured it out.
posted by hades at 12:00 PM on February 27, 2014

« Older Help me think of a name for my potential business.   |   How can I stop my computer screen from fogging my... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.