New York, NY asked in Copyright, Estate Planning, Intellectual Property and Probate for New York

Q: If I wanted to publish my dead grandpa's written songs (he had no will), could his children sue me for the rights?

He died 20 years ago, he had no will. He had 3 daughters, including my mother, who are all still alive.

He was a singer/songwriter. Many of his songs were either typed on a typewriter or written in notebooks (only I have access to).

I want to publish his work, but I am afraid that if I make money off of it, his children will try to sue me for the rights to his work because they're his children & I'm only his granddaughter. I would like to know the proper steps to ensure this doesn't happen and that I get full rights to his belongings.

3 Lawyer Answers
Floyd Edwin Ivey
Floyd Edwin Ivey
Answered
  • Intellectual Property Lawyer
  • Kennewick, WA

A: His songs were copyright property and, like everything else he had, passes to others by a will or, if no will, by state laws. Someone owns the property including the copyright songs. A granddaughter might have rights however, with a mother(wife?) and children, it is not likely.

Your use without an agreement will, if successful, likely result in litigation. See an attorney.

1 user found this answer helpful

Howard E. Knispel
Howard E. Knispel
PREMIUM
Answered
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Commack, NY
  • Licensed in New York

A: This is not a Family Law matter. You should post this in the Intellectual Property Forum.

Steve Charles Vondran
Steve Charles Vondran
PREMIUM
Answered
  • Intellectual Property Lawyer
  • San Francisco, CA

A: Best bet is to discusses with a Copyright / Estate lawyer. You need to find out what rights you may have, if any, and this can depend on your state (NY) laws regarding inheritance. If it were me, (generally speaking), I would probably get a written permission from the kids to allow you to exploit the copyrighted works (you might need to register them with the United States Copyright Office as well), to make sure they will make no claim, or maybe even cutting them in for a small percentage - if they are the legal owners. This should be established. Copyright law, in some cases can last either 70 or 95 years after the Creator has passed away, so discussing with legal counsel before putting in all your time, money and effort makes good sense. Good luck. Attorney Steve®

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