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Arrest me for murder and I ain't harmed a man. Arrest me for forgery, I can't even sign my name - Furry Lewis, Judge Boushay Blues

Author Topic: Copyright for William Brown's Mississippi Blues  (Read 3776 times)

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Offline waxwing

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Copyright for William Brown's Mississippi Blues
« on: June 17, 2008, 10:47:10 PM »
I was doing one last check for copyrights at Harry Fox before my CD goes to press next week and when I searched for Mississippi Blues, again, nothing came up for William Brown. Of course, Stefan Grossman copyrighted his modern version, and there are several other songs with the same name, but no William Brown. For some reason, though, I clicked on one by Floyd Dixon, which was at the top of the list and found that two recordings by William Brown, both on LoC issues, were listed under this copyright.  I was shocked, as I though Floyd Dixon was much later. Indeed, when I Googled him, I found he would have been 13 when William Brown was recorded by Work and Lomax, altho' Dixon was playing piano at that point and had just moved to California where he met and was influenced by Charles Brown, and so forth.

Has anyone heard Floyd Dixon's version of this song to know if it is even similar to William Brown's? Or has anyone recorded a cover of William Brown's song and paid a licensing fee to Floyd Dixon's publisher?

There's already been a discussion here about where Brown may have picked up the lick, so no need to go there again.

Thanks.

All for now.
John C.

"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

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Online Johnm

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Re: Copyright for William Brown's Mississippi Blues
« Reply #1 on: June 17, 2008, 10:54:58 PM »
Hi John C.,
Did the Floyd Dixon information list a publishing company?  Having the publishing and having the copyright are two different things.  Unless Floyd Dixon filed a copyright for "Mississippi Blues" prior to William Brown's recording of it it's hard to see how he could claim to be the composer.  Maybe a copyright search at the Library of Congress focusing on the date that Floyd Dixon filed his claim for "Mississippi Blues" is in order. 
All best,
Johnm

Offline waxwing

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Re: Copyright for William Brown's Mississippi Blues
« Reply #2 on: June 17, 2008, 11:51:37 PM »
Floyd Dixon's publisher is Careers - BMG Music Publishing Inc.

LoC copyrights are only searchable online after 1978. Anything previous you have to get an estimate for the hours/cost of your search, send a check and then it goes to the bottom of the queue. I might hear back in a few months. I'm hoping to go to press about a week.

I've got a query in to HFA by email, so I'll see what they say.

I imagine HFA counts on it being easier to pay the fee than go to the time and expense of a LoC search, which is pretty much what I guess I'm figuring to do.

Unless someone here has heard it and can tell me it's a different song.

All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
https://www.facebook.com/WaxwingJohn

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Copyright for William Brown's Mississippi Blues
« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2008, 11:55:21 PM »
Has anyone heard Floyd Dixon's version of this song to know if it is even similar to William Brown's? Or has anyone recorded a cover of William Brown's song and paid a licensing fee to Floyd Dixon's publisher?
I have the song in question on a 1966 Polydor compilation entitled California Blues. It was recorded in 1947 and take my word for it that if I were to say the song is a million miles away from Willie Brown it would be a gross understatement!  Style closer to Ray Charles than Willie Brown;D It's a smaltz about wanting to go back to Mississippi, which is strange since he was born in Texas...

Offline waxwing

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Re: Copyright for William Brown's Mississippi Blues
« Reply #4 on: June 18, 2008, 12:29:25 AM »
Thanks much, BH.

Boy, tying up the last few loose ends is nerve racking.

All for now.
John C.

"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
https://www.facebook.com/WaxwingJohn

Offline Parlor Picker

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Re: Copyright for William Brown's Mississippi Blues
« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2008, 02:04:59 AM »
John - could you get away with "Trad. arr. Waxwing" or something similar?
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Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Copyright for William Brown's Mississippi Blues
« Reply #6 on: June 18, 2008, 05:35:50 AM »
Quote
John - could you get away with "Trad. arr. Waxwing" or something similar?

I've also been looking into some of these issues. I don't know 'bout Mr. Waxwing but I'm not anticipating enough CD sales, if and when I ever get it together to put one out, to be of much interest to any music publisher. Still if there is a living heir of an original artist then I 'd feel ethically obliged to do a licensing deal. If however, as in some cases, there are no living heirs and the beneficiaries are some kind of management company....well .....Trad. arr. O'Muck sounds good to me.
Does anyone know if there is a database of blues heirs out there somewhere?

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Offline waxwing

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Re: Copyright for William Brown's Mississippi Blues
« Reply #7 on: June 18, 2008, 06:33:28 AM »
I think this one is pretty clearly Public Domain. Nothing is known about William Brown before or after his recording session with John Work and Alan Lomax. He never recorded commercially and he was likely not paid more than a few drinks by the LoC guys. If there was a copyright in his name I would pay the fee

So far, and I have done pretty exhaustive searches at Harry Fox, ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, only 4 of the 15 songs I recorded require a licensing fee. Not too terrible.

Less than 25 CDs and you can get away without fees, Mr. O'M. I'm pressing 1000 and sure, sales may never cause a ripple, but, as my recording engineer says, it's a good idea to plan for success.

All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
https://www.facebook.com/WaxwingJohn

JugStruggler

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Re: Copyright for William Brown's Mississippi Blues
« Reply #8 on: June 18, 2008, 09:09:17 AM »
I'd love to sit down with a copyright lawyer someday and grill them for an hour.

So, what happens if you license the wrong song?  Let's say you paid the license fee for the Floyd Dixon version, and later someone else says hey that's a Willie Brown tune.  Do you get points for trying to do the right thing?

I guess in this case you couldn't confuse the two songs if you had heard them both, but what if...

Offline Norfolk Slim

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Re: Copyright for William Brown's Mississippi Blues
« Reply #9 on: June 18, 2008, 10:33:00 AM »
I suspect in practical terms you'd be able to thrash something out with the copyright control folks...

I assume that the system works in much the same was as it does in the UK- namely that you pay a levy per cd / amount of music that is copyright- and the copyright organisation divvies it all up later without you having to worry about it?

Certainly for small scale operations in the UK you dont have to license individual songs per se- you essentially have to declare how many cds you are making and how much copyright material is on it and are charged a fee accordingly.

As was pointed out in a thread on the Michael Messer Board, this means that most of it ends up going to Paul Mcartney.

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Copyright for William Brown's Mississippi Blues
« Reply #10 on: June 18, 2008, 07:35:22 PM »
Quote
it's a good idea to plan for success.

What's that got to do with the Blues? ;)
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline Parlor Picker

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Re: Copyright for William Brown's Mississippi Blues
« Reply #11 on: June 19, 2008, 01:32:44 AM »
... most of it ends up going to Paul Mcartney.


That's the PRS (Performing Right Society) system which is basically idiosyncratic to say the least.  If they don't know who wrote something, they divide the cash up according to how many "points" you have.  Successful writers like McCartney, Elton John (!*&^!) etc., have more points, so it is assumed they are prolific and more likely to have written the unknown piece...  So the fat cats get fatter and the poor struggling musicians continue to struggle.

Interestingly I once saw on the internet somewhere reference to a song Andy Williams did - and I think Shirley Bassey covered - called "Home Loving Man".  The credit in brackets said "Roger Hubbard".  Roger's (totally different) song of the same title was, of course, covered by Eric Bibb.  I wonder what Roger would think about Shirley Bassey doing his song??
"I ain't good looking, teeth don't shine like pearls,
So glad good looks don't take you through this world."
Barbecue Bob

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Copyright for William Brown's Mississippi Blues
« Reply #12 on: June 19, 2008, 06:45:38 AM »
I wonder what Roger would think about Shirley Bassey doing his song??

I imagine it would be something like "hooray, royalties!"

(Now the theme from Goldfinger is stuck in my head...)

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