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Re: Mutopia and copyright

From: Peter Chubb
Subject: Re: Mutopia and copyright
Date: Tue, 5 Jun 2001 09:40:05 +1000 (EST)

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

Just because you have an Urtext doesn't mean it's public domain.
If the editor had to do significant effort to convert to the edition
shown, (by, for example, comparing and contrasting several different
early editions and creating a line-of-descent for the document, etc.,) 

The Australian Copyright association has this to say:

`EDITING:  There can be separate copyright in the editing (of a piece
of music) if there is a sufficient degree of originality which could
be considered separate from the original work.  An example of this
would be if a musicologist had transcribed a piece of music fom
plainsong notation (written on four lines and not on our modern
five-line staves) into modern notation.  The degree of skill and
musical interpretation necessary to do such a transcription would
probably mean that the editor's extensive work would have copyright
protection separate to thet original work itself'

The main state library here in Sydney considers works to be
out-of-copyright if they're more than 150 years after date of
publication.  But Australia still works on `50 years after author's
death' not 70 years.

>> 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?

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

Chris is exactly right here.  Unless you're sure that the
editor/arranger has been dead for more than 70 years, it's still in

>> 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 copyright date applies to the typesetting, and, in Australia at
least, lasts for 25 years.
There's separate copyright in the music, and in the arrangement, and
in the words.

Your best bet is to write to the original publisher and ask.

Some copyright holders are willing for new editions to be made.
Others are not.

For example, I've recently been transcribing music from `The
Australian Hymnbook' which specifically gives permission for copies to
be published for certain of the hymns, even though the arrangements
are copyright to the committee that compiled the hymnbook.

Peter C

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