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Re: Mutopia and copyright

From: Chris Sawer
Subject: Re: Mutopia and copyright
Date: Mon, 04 Jun 2001 22:00:01 BST

Laurent Pelecq <address@hidden> wrote:
> I hope this is the right list to talk about the Mutopia project.

It seems as good a place as any.

> On the Mutopia site, it is told that a sheet of music is out of
> copyright if the composer died more than 70 years ago and if the
> editor himself died more than 70 years ago too (actually it seems that
> it is 70 years plus war years).

That's right. What do you mean by "plus war years"?

> It is simple to know when the composer died but usually there is no
> editor name on music sheets but the publishing company. And even if
> there were, it would be rather difficult to know when he died.

Yes, this is a problem. In my experience, quite a lot of music has the
editor's name on, but by no means all of it. Sometimes editors are
famous and easy to trace, and in other cases the composer edits his own
pieces. However, as you've found, in many cases it is difficult to find
out the editor's details. This is why "Urtext" editions are so handy,
because they only contain the composer's original markings.

> On another hand, I've read on that works with a
> copyright date prior to 1922 for US authors (or 1904 for most other
> countries) are in public domain.

An interesting site which I hadn't encountered before, however the exact
quote is:

=> Copyright Date Old Enough to Be in the Public Domain referred to as
=> "PD Copyright Date" on this web site:
=> United States and some other countries -  copyright notice of 1904 or
=> earlier           ^^^^

Mutopia is a truly international project, and we can't restrict
ourselves to the copyright laws of one particular country. In fact, I
live in England, and the main Mutopia server is in Canada. Contributors
come from all over the world.

The site you referred to has a distinct US bias, and has very little
information on copyright laws in other countries, as far as I could see.

As far as I've been able to ascertain, the 70 years after death is a
universal rule that applies everywhere for all forms of expression (not
just music).

> I have several music scores with a copyright date of 1903 or less. I
> would like to write them with lilypond for Mutopia. Can I assume that
> editor's ornaments are in public domain?

I don't think you can assume that the editor's marks are in the public
domain, unfortunately. It's irritating, I know, since it's very likely
that they are. However, we have to be very careful on Mutopia as we
have no desire to be taken to court if any of the music turns out not
to be in the public domain.

> Does anyone know if a copyright date may be used to figure out if a
> music score is in public domain in the US (I'm interested in french
> law too).

The site you mentioned above suggests that yes, a copyright date is all
that's needed to establish public domain /in the US/, and it goes into a
lot of detail on this point. However, as I've already mentioned, Mutopia
is international.



Chris Sawer   -   address@hidden   -   Mutopia Maintainer
Free sheet music for all at Mutopia:

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