Taking as an example the album Bob Dylan, released in 1962 by Columbia, how likely is it that the fees for covering famous folk songs were paid and that original authors actually received the fees?

For instance, the record opens with You're No Good, which is a cover of a song written by Jesse Fuller, who was still an active musician at the time. As Jesse Fuller was under contract for a different label (apparently, Good Time Jazz and Arhoolie), I'm guessing that Columbia did not own the rights and should have paid a royalty fee to Jesse Fuller.

I am aware that (quoting https://www.jstor.org/stable/4500298 )

The exploitation of black artists [was common practice] in the record industry

but I'm curious about whenever a "shift" of paying what was due had already started when Bob Dylan made his debut -- and so, how likely it is that there was no copyright infringement when this first record was released.

  • You're No Good may no longer have been protected by copyright in 1962, but even if it was, Fuller likely did not own the rights. It was common in those days for songwriters to sell the copyright to their label. It's likely therefore that (if the song was still protected) Columbia did pay a license fee, but that Fuller had no right to any portion of the fee and received none of it.
    – phoog
    Oct 11, 2021 at 10:25
  • @PiedPiper copyright for works published in the US before 1978 is independent of the life of the author, but it is dependent on copyright registration and renewal, so without knowing the date of publication and whether the copyright was registered and, if appropriate, renewed, it is not possible to know whether the song was protected in 1962. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – phoog
    Oct 11, 2021 at 16:12
  • @phoog Fuller made his first record on 1958, so the publication date of the song is very unlikely be earlier than that, so it's very probable the song would have been protected in 1962.
    – PiedPiper
    Oct 11, 2021 at 18:50
  • @PiedPiper given that there was no federal copyright in phonograph recordings at the time it's not clear to me whether such a recording would constitute publication of the song.
    – phoog
    Oct 11, 2021 at 19:07


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