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  1. #1

    Default How to Get Copyright Permission from Heirs

    So, I am working for a non-profit organization that is starting up a record label that will release field recordings and heritage music. We have an artist agreement which allows us to license and use all Sound Recording and Musical Composition rights to the materials we collect. It is an exclusive license. Anyways, we are working on releasing materials by a fiddler who died without a will in 1964 and left 8 children and a wife who is no longer living. Currently he has four surviving daughters, three deceased sons, and one deceased daughter.
    From what I understand about Tennessee intestate law and per stirpes, the rights are divided amongst the fiddler's children and then if that child dies those fractions are further divided to the grandchildren and the child's spouse. So, to get permission, we have to get signatures from each living daughter and then signatures from each son's children and surviving widow?
    MAIN PROBLEM: We recently learned that the fiddler had a daughter who passed when she was 23. My initial research into Tennessee intestate law has lead me to believe that the deceased daughter still received a fraction (1/8) of the copyright when fiddler died, and that fraction automatically went to her daughter(fiddler's granddaughter). Since the granddaughter is no longer living, does that mean the 1/8 fraction has now been passed onto the granddaughter's 6 or so children? The problem is that nobody else in the fiddler's family knows anything about this other granddaughter or her six children. Do we absolutely have to track down the six great grand kids and get their permission in order to release the fiddler's materials? They probably don't even know who their great grandfather is. Could we just set aside an escrow account to collect whatever royalties they may claim if one of the six kids comes out of the woodwork?

    Thanks

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Posts
    10,138

    Default Re: Copyright Permission from Heirs

    Since there is no compulsory license, how are you going to determine what amount of royalty would be acceptable to the unlocated rights holders?

  3. #3

    Default Re: Copyright Permission from Heirs

    This question lead me to learn more about compulsory licensing, and I suppose, like you said, there isn't one in this situation. On our artist agreement we divide net profit 50/50, with 50% going to the non-profit group and 50% going towards the artist or heirs. Generally this will be a single account, but in this case the royalty amount for the unlocated right holders would be 1/8 of that 50% and that would have to go to a separate account.
    EDIT: To answer your question, this amount was determined by my interpretation of intestate laws in Tennessee, which distributes estate property "per stirpes".

    Also, here's another take on this problem: Would it be possible for one of the family members to become some sort of personal representative of the family estate? That would be much easier than having to get signatures from everybody we have contact with, not to mention the heirs we have no contact with.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Posts
    10,138

    Default Re: Copyright Permission from Heirs

    If the estate was probated, there should already be a PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE/EXECUTOR appointed. In fact, finding that person is probably your best bet.

    Your idea of how the profits should be distributed isn't going to be binding on anyone.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Copyright Permission from Heirs

    I do not think that the estate was probated but I will contact the family to make sure. What do you mean by my idea of how the profits should be distributed isn't going to be binding on anyone? The 50% of net royalties part is in the artist agreement which the family will sign, and is the unlocated family not entitled to their share of that based on how much of the copyright they technically own(1/8)?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Posts
    203

    Default Re: Copyright Permission from Heirs

    There aren't going to be any profits. Just tell them you are preserving his music. There is no significant market for it. You are doing them a favor.
    Are any of them doing anything with the music?

    DO you realize what a nightmare it will end up being for the accounting and sending checks for a few dollars? Then you will have to give them inspection rights for the books. It will be much more trouble than it is worth.

    Does the executor survive after the estate is distributed?

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