Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Copyright Office vs. Paul Terry King

Songwriter Paul Terry King has challenged my position regarding his copyright for the songs he claims to have written with Elvis Presley in 1973. King writes, referring to me and my analysis:

“First and foremost he starts off that a bmi registration and a United States copyright registration mean nothing as to proof of authorship! How wrong you are Mr. Lacy! In fact its known as prima facia evidence in legal terms and that is why the penaltys for false statements on a copyright are so severe 10yr imprisonment and up to a $350,000 fine!!!”

On the Elvis Decoded webpage, linked below, I write:

Elvis died in 1977, and we know that King did not register this song with either BMI or the Library of Congress (Copyright Office) until many years later. So, this shows us quite clearly that BMI and the CO do not take any proactive measures to authenticate authorship of any given work. Instead, they allow any name on any submission, and only if a question arises does authorship become an issue. Simply, I could register a song and claim “Elvis Presley” as co-writer, but BMI and the CO have no way of proving that either of us really wrote the piece in question. Going back to Waters’s claim that “the evidence…is pretty clear,” we see that Waters is incorrect, since the BMI registration and the CO registration provide no evidence whatsoever as to authorship.

I stand by my analysis on this issue, and I will state that Mr. King is incorrect, and here is why:

The Copyright Office (and we can likely include BMI in this analysis since they probably have similar guidelines and rules for registering works) provides the following, in response to an e-mail I sent them:

“The Copyright Office is an office of public record. We make a public record of a claim to copyright. We do not investigate whether or not the information on an application is valid. In the specific example you gave, the claimant stated in the application that the work was created in 1973, which is before his co-author's death. He does not give his co-author's name as the claimant, only as the author.”

Mr. King needs to read one particular sentence again: “We do not investigate whether or not the information on an application is valid.”

Hmmm, “prima facie evidence,” according to Mr. King, and yet the Copyright Office doesn’t even investigate whether the information on an application is valid.

What the CO is saying here is quite clear, and there are two main points to consider:

The CO merely records the data that is submitted; they do not investigate or otherwise research whether the submitted information is accurate and valid. In my analysis of King’s claim, I write, “…the CO [does] not take any proactive measures to authenticate authorship of any given work,” which according to the CO’s response is correct. On this point, then, Paul Terry King is proven incorrect, since he claims (above) that a registration with the CO is proof of authorship. Simply, the only thing that is proven by the Copyright Office registration is that Paul Terry King submitted the work for copyright.

Futher, as I write on the Elvis Decoded webpage: “PTK [Paul Terry King] copyrighted this song in 1993, 20 years after the song was supposedly written. This is a clear indication that the CO does not, and cannot, investigate claims of authorship. Otherwise, they would have refused the registration because they were not able to confirm with Elvis Presley that he co-wrote the song, since Elvis Presley had been deceased for 16 years.”

I stand by my research and analysis. Mr. King is wrong. His registration with the Copyright Office does NOT support his contention that Elvis Presley is the confirmed co-writer of the song. The Copyright Office does NOT confirm and does NOT investigate authorship.

Finally, I would like to address King’s claim that making a false statement on a copyright registration is subject to a penalty of up to a $350,000 fine and/or 10 years imprisonment.

The Copyright Office seems to have a different set of facts. Here is what the CO says (from

(e) False Representation. — Any person who knowingly makes a false representation of a material fact in the application for copyright registration provided for by section 409, or in any written statement filed in connection with the application, shall be fined not more than $2,500.

Paul Terry King, in the interest of full disclosure, should reveal where and how he determined that a false claim on a copyright registration is subject to such severe penalties, when the actual punishment is quite unremarkable. And nowhere do I see any mention of prison.

Finally, King’s evidence may be considered prima facie (which means the facts are accepted as stated, lacking a rebuttal or challenge) in the world of Paul Terry King, but in reality, the evidence King presents is nothing of the sort. I would, however, remind Mr. King what I wrote on the Elvis Decoded webpage, a variation of which he now appears to support: “…they allow any name on any submission, and only if a question arises does authorship become an issue.” In King’s misunderstanding of the law, he is trying to say that his evidence is true and factual ONLY because no one has challenged it from a legal standpoint, which is a rather weak position.