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Copyright & Patents/Verbal speech sample/copyright in music sound recording


Dear MR.Hasekamp :
         -I am an independent musician wishing to create a musical CD for commercial distribution - the music itself is my own original creative works, however I wish to incorporate a sample/portion of JFK's Presidential "Ask not what your country can do for you" speech into the song itself- but have been unable to locate who owns the original copyrights to the sound recording of the speech and therefore have been baffled how to go about obtaining the legal rights to use the voice/speech sample in my song. Any advice ?

I want to answer this question to the best of my knowledge, although I am not a copyright expert.

One thing you should know about a copyrighted work, is that it is always allowed to cite "small portions" of it. I am not quite certain if you have to mention the source then, but I believe you have to, so you should mention the JFK speech on the CD sleeve notes.

The US has a copyright system which leaves copyright intact until 70 years after the death of the copyright holder. As JFK is not yet dead for 70 years, his speeches are still under copyright.

But who owns the copyright now? And in your case that of the sound recordings?
I think that the sound recordings of speeches of a US president are not copyrighted separately as such.
Only the text seems to me to be copyrighted. It may be now be owned by his inheritants (the most logical situation). Or it might be the US state. But as far as I know all the Presidential speeches have been published, so why not consult a library and look who owns the copyright? Then you can dicide what to do.

If you consider the part you want to use as a "citation of a small portion" you might venture to use it anyway. I believe citing public figures is allowed sooner than private figures like book authors. But of course you have a commercial aim, which would restrict the allowed citation again.
The safe way of course is to consult a lawyer.

This is about all I can say about the subject. It is no definite answer, but some - hopefully  useful - guidelines.

Rene Hasekamp

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Rene Hasekamp


I can answer questions about European patent law and practice. My experience mainly lies in the Dutch patent practice. I am not familiar with other patent systems than the European and Dutch systems, although I am familiar with general issues regarding patents. Please don`t ask me questions, specific for US patent law or any other non-European patent law.


I have been a patent examiner in the Netherlands Patent Office for 35 years. Now I am retired. I have been a deputy judge for patent cases in The Hague's District Court from January 1991 until June 2011.

I graduated in Chemistry and Law at Leiden University. I have worked in the Netherlands Patent Office as an examiner for 35 years until my retirement in 2003. I was appointed as a honorary deputy judge for patent cases in 1991. After my retirement I still work at a few cases on patent law in The Hague District Court.

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