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Cuban music copyright confusion

Marketplace Staff Nov 22, 2006


SCOTT JAGOW: The Buena Vista Social Club just came out with a new album last week. Buena Vista made its name in the late ’90s with a record that featured bits from Cuban singers of the ’40s. That started a legal battle as Dan Grech reports.

DAN GRECH: Cuban musicians were signed to deals in the ’30s and ’40s by New Jersey-based Peer Music, but those contracts were cancelled after Fidel Castro took power in 1959.

Correspondent Frances Robles picks up the story in today’s Miami Herald.

FRANCES ROBLES: One of the things that happened with the success of the Buena Vista Social Club is that these songs became very valuable and everyone from the publishing houses to the Cuban government realized they needed to start enforcing deals that were 60 years old and growing dust.

Peer Music sued the Cuban government in British court for the rights to 14 Cuban oldies. After six years, a judge said he was unwilling to declare anyone owner of the songs because he feared setting a precedent.

ROBLES: Even after talking to the lawyers, they don’t know who has the copyright right now. So when I ask the question, ‘OK, the song plays on the radio tomorrow, who gets the money?’ Everybody’s kind of scratching their heads.

In Miami, I’m Dan Grech for Marketplace.

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