I am looking to develop and market a product using Jewsih music and am wandering how this works as far as using other peoples music trademarks, copyright, and so on. Can one use a song and just change it a little? Does one need permission from the original composer?
Any direction would be really appreciated.
According to most halachic authorities copyright law is binding in halachah, this is far from being self-understood, and each question must be treated on individual merits. As a general rule, altering a song a little would not be sufficient to “detach” it from its original producer, and he would retain basic “rights” to the new version. Under such circumstances (producing a new song which is only a slightly altered version of an original song) permission must be requested from the original producer.
Sources: The source material for this question is too voluminous to include here. However, one of the principle sources that address a similar question is Noda Biyehuda (Tinyana, Choshen Mishpat, no. 24). Although Divrei Malkiel (vol. 3, no. 157) severely limits the application of Noda Biyehuda’s ruling in a modern sense of intangible property, many poskim have written or issued rulings that uphold copyright legislation and extend it, by a number of halachic mechanisms (including laws of benefit, the principle of dina demalchusah, a prohibition of utilizing another’s expenditure at his loss, and others), to questions of intangibles. See also Techumin (vol. 6) which also discusses a similar case.