September 9, 2021
Japanese Society for Rights of Authors,
Composers and Publishers
Copyright Administration Recommenced for Specific Works Composed by George Gershwin
From January 1, 2022, JASRAC will recommence copyright administration of 337 works composed by George Gershwin (died in 1937; hereafter referred to as "George") which have been confirmed as joint works* co-written with Ira Gershwin (died in 1983; hereafter referred to as "Ira") based on documentation submitted by U.S. copyright management organization ASCAP.
George Gershwin is a composer known for works such as "Rhapsody in Blue" and "Summertime" who passed away in 1937. Assigned by ASCAP and the music publisher for the territory of Japan, JASRAC had administered the copyrights of his works for usages in Japan. Based on the "Law Concerning Exceptional Provisions for Copyrights Owned by the Allied Powers and the Allied Nationals," his copyrights have been treated as public domain from May 22, 1998, which is equivalent to 50 years after George's death plus 3,794 days (so-called "wartime prolongation").
Among the works composed by George, JASRAC has been requested by ASCAP (on behalf of the successors to the Gershwins) since 1988 to treat works accompanied by lyrics and engaging Ira in the following manner:
1) As the lyrics and music of these works were jointly written by George and Ira, the works should be protected by virtue of 1983 as Ira's year of death; and
2) Both the lyrics and the music of works comprising the opera "Porgy and Bess" should be dealt as jointly written by four persons: George, Ira, DuBose Heyward (died in 1940; hereinafter referred to as "DuBose"), and wife of DuBose, Dorothy Heyward (died in 1961; hereinafter referred to as "Dorothy").
As no documentation had been submitted to prove that the works in question were co-written with Ira, JASRAC had not accepted the abovementioned requests. However, following verification of new documentation submitted by ASCAP, the works have been confirmed as being jointly written and administration will recommence from January 1, 2022. Until then JASRAC will be notifying music users to this effect.
2.Summary of new documentation submitted by ASCAP
1) Both the lyrics and the music are jointly written by George and Ira.
From the affidavits of five individuals concerned, including the younger sister and friends of George and Ira, and a musical assistant to Ira, it has been confirmed that George and Ira always created works in cooperation, that Ira was creatively engaged in the expression of the music, and that George was creatively engaged in the expression of the lyrics.
2) The lyrics of works comprising the opera "Porgy and Bess" were jointly written by George, Ira, DuBose, and Dorothy.
From agreements signed by the parties concerned (George, Ira, DuBose, Dorothy, plus The Theater Guild, Inc.), it was confirmed that both DuBose and Dorothy are writers entitled to receive distribution of royalties accruing from copyrighted works. On the other hand, creative engagement by DuBose and Dorothy could not be confirmed for the music of these works in light of the Copyright Law of Japan, and so despite the request from ASCAP, they will remain as co-written by George and Ira only.
3.Changes in administration at JASRAC (noted in red)
1) Works not associated with the opera "Porgy and Bess," including "Someone to Watch Over Me" - Total of 237 works
2) Works associated with the opera "Porgy and Bess," including "I Loves You, Porgy" - Total of 95 works
3) Works associated with the opera "Porgy and Bess," including "Summertime" - Total of 5 works
<When using works subject to recommencement>
Please note that works such as "Rhapsody in Blue" and "An American in Paris," which Ira is not engaged in the creation of, are excluded from the works subject to the change. For details, please refer to the list of works subject to recommencement.
Your kind understanding is greatly appreciated.
*A joint work is "a work created by two or more persons whose contributions to the work cannot be separated so as to allow each part of the work to be used independently" (Article 2, paragraph 1 (xii) from the Copyright Law of Japan; same Law applies hereafter), and its copyright subsists for a period of 70 years after the death of the last surviving co-author (Article 51, paragraph 2).
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