I dipped my toes into U. S. Copyright law in a search for music. It was a confusing nightmare of illogic. I escaped with the opinion that it was best to stay for away from that Congressional insanity.
There is a vast difference between the sheet music and the performance. For some reason, the copyright on printed music has to be renewed at regular intervals, so piles of it have slipped into public domain. Perhaps the most famous piece of music to slip accidentally into public domain (but only in the UK and Western Europe) is the Beatles’ “Love Me Do.”
However, in the late 70’s the US Congress decided to automatically renew the copyright on the recorded performances of music to a maximum of 95 years. So any performance from before 1924 is now out of copyright. Next year works from 1925 will go out of copyright.
This creates some odd situations. For example, consider the case of Authur Crudup. He wrote “That’s All Right,” which became a big hit for Elvis Presley. Neither Crudup nor his heirs renewed the copyright, so “That’s Alright” is in public domain now. His family no longer collects a royalty when Elvis, or anybody else, sings “That’s Alright.”
But in a strange quirk, the Crudup estate still owns the copyright on the original recording which has a very young Elvis singing background vocals and playing guitar.
In another interesting take away, I now understand why some TV shows totally disappear after they are eventually cancelled by the network. Most often it is over copyright issues, usually with the music. For example, we may never see Northern Exposure on Netflix, or any other streaming platform, because when the show was produced in the early 90’s no one had heard of the Internet, so they didn’t secure the streaming rights. Streaming rights weren’t a consideration.
That said, I am glad that I know a good blues man who will record the music for the Book Chats podcast.