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Etiquette/law on using arrangements


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On 4/14/2021 at 11:30 PM, Paul_Hardy said:


It's not unreasonable that a Victorian Music Hall song might be still in copyright - In Europe (as in many other jurisdictions), copyright now lasts for 70 years after the death of the last author/composer. Victoria died in 1901, so someone who was 25 then, and lived to say 80 years old might have died in 1956. So with the 70 years after death rule, it would be in copyright until 2026. If they lived to age 99 then it expires in 2045!


I'm not convinced that the publishing of an arrangement in 1940 has any relevance to the copyright of the original tune.  The arranger would then have a copyright on his/her arrangement until 70 years after his/her death, but that only affects the arrangement, not the original tune.




You're probably correct Paul, but like schult suggested, you can only do the best in your own jurisdiction and hope that those responsible get it right! What happens when they don't is anyone's guess, but it's unlikely to make you lose much sleep unless your sales are in the millions 🙂



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Yeah, copyright law is a mess, but I think everything that's been posted above is correct. It's particularly difficult in the folk/trad world, where the culture is that music belongs to everyone and is for sharing, even as there's a recognition that artists deserve a reward for their work.


One thing that would help enormously would be if artists were explicit in how they want their works to be controlled. Slap a big copyright statement on it if you want to retain complete control. Say it's in the public domain if you want to give it to the world. Or use one of the Creative Commons licences if you want an intermediate degree of control. For example, Paul Hardy's tunebooks have a nice clear statement at the beginning:


Copyright Paul Hardy (paul@paulhardy.net) 2004-2018.

Work is licenced under a Creative Commons "Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike" by-nc-sa licence.

See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ - Contact Paul Hardy for commercial licensing.

If only people would keep the notices when they share stuff...

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11 minutes ago, Moll Peatly said:

One thing that would help enormously would be if artists were explicit in how they want their works to be controlled.


Yesterday the Country Dance and Song Society honored David Kaynor with their “Lifetime Contribution” award. David is a fiddler, contradance caller, tunesmith, and so much more. I was among about 700 people on the zoom event. At one point it was made clear that all his tunes are to be considered in the public domain.

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23 hours ago, Moll Peatly said:

For example, Paul Hardy's tunebooks have a nice clear statement at the beginning:


Thanks for the mention. It should be made clear that even this copyright claim/permission applies only to my arrangement and typesetting of the tunes. None of the tunes are my own compositions.


98% of the tunes in my tunebooks say "Trad." at the top, indicating that the composer(s) are lost in the mists of time, and the current version I transcribe is the result of the folk evolutionary process. The 2% that have named composers are  out of copyright period, have given explicit permission (thanks), or like in the previous reply are believed to want their tunes to be promulgated freely in the folk tradition.


This is a different case from those professional musicians who have composed tunes, and need the income from copyright and selling books etc to keep them solvent. I try to take care not to include such tunes in my tunebooks, although occasionally a tune I thought was trad turns out to be current.


With hindsight, I wish I'd kept records of the sources of the tunes I've included, but I didn't!

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We’ve come across the same sort of thing as Adrian Brown regarding an artist (or their “people”) saying we couldn’t use their song.  I am in a trio (Gloucester based Way Out West) that does very different versions of pop/rock/whatever tickles us on acoustic instruments with three part vocal harmony.  Sometimes to completely new tunes we’ve come up with that suit the new vision we have for the song.  We never knew the reason why one well known band refused permission.  Adrian’s answer actually goes a long way to reassuring me that it wasn’t necessarily because they didn’t enjoy it 😛. That said with other artists we were fine!  Pop music is big industry - maybe these days with more independent production and artists bring more hands on and accessible through social media it’s possible to do things a bit differently

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