Copyright Guidance Needed

Theory and practice of composition and arranging for classical guitar, discussion of works in progress, etc.
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Composers' Workshop
Theory and practice of composition and arranging for classical guitar, discussion of works in progress, etc.

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Copyright Guidance Needed

Post by fatwarry » Tue Jun 21, 2016 2:37 pm

I've arranged a few O'carolan pieces and would like to post them in the "Our Scores" section. The original tunes are public domain. However, one of the arrangements is not entirely my own work.

What happened was that I made my own arrangement and wasn't happy with it. Then I found that I had three different arrangements in my "library" that I've bought over the years and I cobbled together a version that I'm happy with from these plus some of my own version. So, while the final piece is different from any published version that I own, about two thirds of it is "borrowed" from published versions. Would I be in breach of copyright if I post it to the forum? If so, what if I credit the other arrangers? Is there a suitable form of words?

Any advice greatly appreciated
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Re: Copyright Guidance Needed

Post by guitarrista » Tue Jun 21, 2016 5:41 pm

Copyright law varies by country, but in general, it would depend on whether the arrangements you used are in the public domain or not. Assuming they are not public domain, and that you have not obtained a license or permission from the copyright owners, then you have likely created an unauthorized derivative work. This is not 100% clear - read through - but is very likely. And, certainly, do NOT post this work here on the delcamp forum - Mr. Delcamp takes copyright law very seriously and would always err on the side of caution.
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Re: Copyright Guidance Needed

Post by pogmoor » Tue Jun 21, 2016 8:54 pm

Broadly speaking I agree with guitarrista. I don't claim to be an expert on copyright law, but I do make a lot of arrangements from public domain pieces, some of which have also been arranged by other people - so I am familiar with a lot of the issues.

As with many aspects of law the answer will depend on the specifics of the individual case. In the case of O'Carolan's work the original sources consist only of the tunes themselves. O'Carolan's own arrangements are not preserved. As a consequence arrangements of his works for classical guitar do require quite a bit of creative effort from the arranger - in deciding the harmonies and how they should be voiced. I think this means that if an arranger comes across your version and sees that a substantial proportion of the arrangement is exactly the same as his (or hers) then (s)he would regard it as an infringement of copyright. On the other hand, if a only couple of bars here and there is the same as another version then I don't think there would be a case.

In the case of a work where the original arrangement is preserved the situation might be quite different. If you can show that you have gone back to the primary source, or an earlier public domain version, then your arrangement will not break copyright even if it does resemble someone else's published version.
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Re: Copyright Guidance Needed

Post by Daniel Penalva » Sat Jul 15, 2017 11:28 pm

If it is public domain, as long as you publish in Creative Commons license i dont think will be problem in any country.
Alternatively you could research how many compass you need to repeat from a original to your arrengement be considered in forgery domain.

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Re: Copyright Guidance Needed

Post by Rob » Sun Jul 16, 2017 2:48 am

To the extent the compositions reflect your original work, even if it is a modification of previous composers, the copyright on your original work belongs to you. If the original works are from long ago, e.g. Bach, Sor, etc. any copyrights on the original works have long ago expired.

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Re: Copyright Guidance Needed

Post by wchymeus » Sun Jul 16, 2017 5:20 am

Like Pogmoor and Guitarrista say, it's really unclear as even if the original is in public domain it seems that transcriptions bring unique creative elements.
What about the protection of the material that inspired you? If they are copyleft, you transcription is in a gray area most likely.
On the flip side, if you can argue that your transcription is unique in the sense that you added elements of your own you can publish it with mention of your sources and assign it a creative common licenses as Daniel is suggesting.
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Re: Copyright Guidance Needed

Post by stevel » Sun Jul 16, 2017 5:37 pm

pogmoor wrote:
Tue Jun 21, 2016 8:54 pm
I think this means that if an arranger comes across your version and sees that a substantial proportion of the arrangement is exactly the same as his (or hers) then (s)he would regard it as an infringement of copyright.

On some level it could depend on how picky the publisher would be, and if they wanted to drag you to court over it. However, if it's a big publisher with legal teams, they're going to send you a cease and desist notice and tell you to take it down and not make any more copies available.

I was engraving music for a piano music publisher once and he got in a little hot water because his edition looked too much like another edition.

Since the piece was out of copyright, it had nothing to do with the notes themselves or anything like that (these weren't arrangements). But what a publisher does for an "edition" that is *added to* (or changed from) the original is something that can be copyrighted.

So it turned out to be the fingering. This publisher added fingering to their edition. It was purely logical - exactly what any trained pianist would do - and put in in a "traditional" style where you only indicate fingering where it's really needed, not in the places it's real obvious.

Well naturally, the guy I was working with did the same thing - just because that's what you do - he had never seen the other edition.

But, becuase it was so similar, they didn't like it and threatened him (IIRC, it had already been published in the first run of books and then they "required" him to change it for the next run which is why he hired me to make the alterations).

I can't remember what he did - he either re-fingered the piece with different suggestions, or we just put in fingering on every single note, which made it look significantly different from the other edition.

You could easily get in trouble with something like this for dynamics, pedalling, and even page layout (like the addition of first and 2nd endings where there were none in the original, but someone else did it).

In the case of arrangements, the same applies - if you've chosen a similar chord progression, similar inversions, similar accompaniment patterns, and so on, the more similar it is to any copyrighted arrangement, the bigger the danger of your infringing.

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