Legality of Mash ups?

Mash ups being the highly technical term referring to songs composed by mashing two or more songs together. So the artist of the mash up may offer it free on his site, but is the song itself legal if it is composed of 2 copyright songs? I guess this refers to the Grey Album in sorts but I don’t know the outcome of those legal issues.

It’s legal provided the person doing the mash-up pays licensing fees to the artists who wrote the songs. If the fees, aren’t paid, it’s not.

Note that offering the song for free is irrelevant.

Harry Nilsson did a mash-up of about 20 Beatles songs called “You Can’t Do That.” He paid the licensing fees and the song was available on one of his albums. So it can be done.

IANYL, this isn’t legal advice, all standard disclaimers apply…

A mashup is illegal if both the songs are copyrighted and the the author of the mashup did not receive a license from the copyright holders. The copyright holders are not compelled in any way to give license to the author.

Combining this with realitychuck’s post seems to suggest a followup question:

Are the copyright holders compelled to SELL license for any specific amount, or are they free to jack up the price or refuse licensing based on details like their opinion of the mash-up, the haircut of the mashup author or his skin color??

It’s right there in the word “copyright”. The holder has the sole right to determine who can make copies and when. The default is “no you may not make copies” and they alone have the right to grant permission.

Here is a good article that talks about bootlegging, including mash-ups.
And here is a Sixth Circuit case that talks about the category of digital sampling generally.

I should’ve been more clear (this is what I get for getting back my Civ III disk):

…, if the author is going to do a mashup. :smack:

Also, before any more confusion ensues, let’s be clear about selling and licensing:
A copyright holder in most cases would not find it beneficial to SELL his copyright. In order to derive profit from his copyright, the copyright holder will LICENSE his right in the work for a fee. If he were to sell his copyright, then he would relinquish all future rights in the work, barring any type of future profit/revenue.

So, the answer is a resounding no, in either case that a copyright holder is required to sell or license the copyright.

In a nutshell, you are talking about compulsory/mechanical (the preferred term) licensing for non-dramatic work. That is found here. This rate is used when an artist wants to do his own version of the original artist’s song (a “cover.”) In compulsory licensing, the new author can cover the song, change the style of the song, but not the substance, chorus, or melody without additional permission (i.e. the copyright holder is no longer compelled to license). This is all a large, gray area, and is not as simple as I post it.