Is the requirement for a mechanical license for (free) cover songs enforced?
February 17, 2007 4:47 PM   Subscribe

Cover songs, legal vs. practical: Is the requirement for a mechanical license ever enforced, especially for covers distributed for free over the internet?

The legality of distributing covers has been asked about here, and it seems clear (or at least relatively clear for a music IP issue). Even if you're distributing a cover of another song for free, you're supposed to get a mechanical license and pay a certain (small) amount per copy distributed. I have a slightly different question: do companies like Harry Fox ever go after anyone for not doing this (or, have they ever done so), especially very small time cases? By "small time", I mean free, over the internet, with a low number of downloads. Pointers to articles about relevant lawsuits, or alternatively, explanations of why there are no such lawsuits (e.g. not cost-effective), would be ideal.

Incidentally I do realize that this has been discussed to a certain extent for music.mefi and that covers are condoned there (and mathowie hasn't been sued), but this question is not about music.mefi in particular. Also, this question isn't about live performance of covers.
posted by advil to Law & Government (4 answers total)
In October...
Kind of an overview
posted by rhizome at 5:16 PM on February 17, 2007

Response by poster: In October...
Kind of an overview

Thanks, but unless I'm missing something, both of these articles are entirely about live performances (where the bar owner, not the musician, is the one on the hook for the protection money fees to ASCAP etc.) I'm more interested in cases where the musician would be the one on the hook, i.e. where the cover's being distributed, not performed.
posted by advil at 1:24 PM on February 18, 2007

To my knowledge no, but I'm not an entertainment lawyer. It's kinda like how you're not as likely to get sued by the RIAA if you only download one album. They generally have bigger fish to fry, and would likely send a C&D first.
I do know of a label locally that got into trouble for distributing an album with a cover on it (I think Depeche Mode, but don't remember, honestly) after the band doing the covering started to blow up. They got a brief c&d, then signed up for a mandatory license, then ultimately signed with the label that had been representing the band who they'd covered, then they broke up and disappeared.
But I think that was one of those things where it only ever got noticed because the band had gotten bigger, and even then it turned out to be kinda a non-issue.
posted by klangklangston at 8:10 PM on February 18, 2007

Response by poster: thanks klangklangston, sounds like it's really not very high-risk.
posted by advil at 1:03 PM on February 20, 2007

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