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Copyright, Sheet Music And Abc

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At the recent North-East Squeeze-In in the Quebec Tunes workshop we played Reel Ti-Me, a great tune that I wanted to make sure I learned. Since my mp3 recorder was full I wanted to get hold of the sheet music. I now have a copy of "Danse Ce Soir, fiddle and accordion music of Quebec" which has the tune in.


Originally when I asked in the tunes section if anyone had the abc file, Jim Besser pointed out that the tune was copyright and that posting the abc would be on the wrong side of Copyright law.


When I looked up the tune in the book, indeed it does say "Copyright SOCAN". SOCAN is the Society of Musicians and Music Publishers of Canada. On their website they state that SOCAN only handles copyright of performed music and on their site they list the tarrifs for various performance situations. The other two aspects of Copyright, the right to publish sheet music (and abc I imagine) and the right to produce CD's of the music "are handled by the Copyright owners or other organization". Since the only Copyright mentioned is SOCAN does that mean that distributing the abcs or sheet music would be ok or are the other two situations now handled by the original composer, even if it does not say they hold copyright?


According to the tarrif sheet, when during the Toronto Ale over Labor Day weekend we broke out our instruments and had an impromptu session on the public bus, if we had played Reel Ti-Me it would have cost us $62.74.


Is a session in a pub a "Public performance"? If so, we'd need to pay royalties for that too. I guess any performing artists who play the tune in public needs to pay $83.65 and I think that's per year.

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We do need to insist that copyrighted material not be posted in the Tune-O-Tron. Otherwise Concertina.net (IOW Paul, and maybe me too) is liable for fees or damages to the copyright holder. Sorry, gang, that's life in the big city.


In the USA, pub performances require fees to be paid by the owner/manager to groups like ASCAP and BMI. Often the performer is not part of the negotiation, unless e.g. performing their own, original material. Commonly the owner just pays a set annual fee that covers everything, and ASCAP is supposed to know how to divvy up the royalties. The common complaint is the big artists (McCartney, Jackson, etc.) always get their share from ASCAP but the rest of the music composers do not. I have no idea what happens outside the US.


A fee of $50 to $100 a year is not unusual for a rights to perform a song in the case of full-time, big-name, performing musicians. How often people ignore or sneak around this requirement (probably a lot) others can tell you better than I.


A creative alternative is Jay Ungar's approach. On his Web site you can fill in a form to get a mechanical license (i.e. for recording your performance on your own CD) for "Ashokan Farewell." So many people have recorded it that he automated the process so he could get back to doing his own music. He figures fellow folkies will mostly do the right thing and as long as it doesn't show up on TV commercials etc. he didn't authorize he doesn't worry much about it.

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Is a session in a pub a "Public performance"? If so, we'd need to pay royalties for that too. I guess any performing artists who play the tune in public needs to pay $83.65 and I think that's per year.

I don't know how it is in Canada, but in the UK any place where music is played (either from recordings or live) to the "public" (a term which can include the workforce in a factory, for example), has to have a licence from the Performing Rights Society. Collecting individual fees for individual songs from individual performers would be impractical at this level, and this licence fee is collected instead and redistributed somehow to artists whose material is likely to have been used. Don't ask me how they make the calculations!

I know of a pub musician who was approached after his gig by an officer from the PRS who wanted to know the composers/lyricists of the music he had performed, not because she expected him to pay for the performance rights, but as some sort of guide to whose music is out there and who should get a slice of the action, it seems.


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