Originally Ours - Question for George or others

Karin Ingram

Message 47416 · 7 Dec 2006 18:41:10 · Variable-width font · Whole thread

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The copyright issue is confusing to many, but musicians, composers and
promoters in the UK should visit www.prs.co.uk or telephone 0207-580 5544.
The Scottish MCPS/PRS contact is Duncan McCrone and his office number is
0141-204 4030.
Performing of tunes in or out of copyright is not generally an issue that
musicians need concern themselves about (unless they are being recorded onto
a commercially available product such as CD, DVD or video). Whoever is
organising an event must have a PRS licence (unless one is already held by
the venue). Therefore anyone running a dance class, whether using live
music or CDs, should check if the premises have a licence; if not, the
organiser of the class is breaking the law and runs a very real risk of
being prosecuted.
For those interested I will start a new thread with an explanation of
copyright taken from the PRS site.
Best wishes,
Karin Ingram
(Editor "Dance On!" & "Box and Fiddle")
Scottish Borders

-----Original Message-----
From: strathspey-bounces-editor=xxxxxxxxxxxx.xxx@xxxxxxxxxx.xxx
[mailto:strathspey-bounces-editor=xxxxxxxxxxxx.xxx@xxxxxxxxxx.xxx] On Behalf
Of John Chambers
Sent: 07 December 2006 16:42
To: xxxxxxxxxx@xxxxxxxxxx.xxx; SCD news and discussion
Subject: Re: Originally Ours - Question for George or others

Steve Wyrick wrote:
| By the way, in thinking about this I looked at the copyright notice in the
| front of Originally Ours. Does anyone besides me think it is overly
| restrictive and unenforceable (at least in the US)? It appears to
| almost every use of the book without express permission from the
| (I don't have it in front of me but if I recall it prohibits reproduction
| any form, including photocopying, computer input, and performance of any
| sort.) Can it really be possible to copyright tunes that are in the
| domain, as are the majority of the tunes included in this volume? What is
| actually being copyrighted here, is it the specific arrangement of the
| or the layout, or something else? Am I in violation of this copyright
when I
| photocopy a page, cut and paste a tune into an arrangement, then
distribute it
| to my band for a dance? How about when I re-enter a tune into Sibelius,
| "Americanize" the chords and include it in a set?

The main point here is probably that the RSCDS isn't about to take
anyone to court for using Originally Ours or any of the booklets as
they were obviously intended to be used. The RSCDS isn't some
far-off, money-making corporation. We are the RSCDS, and the
organization exists to support our dancing, which includes supporting
and encouraging musicians. Their publications include printed music
so that we can play the tunes at dances.

But there is the fact that, in much of the world, what you're doing
is, strictly speaking, illegal. The legal system has gone somewhat
insane over such things. Commercial companies are suing their
customers for reasonable and expected uses of their products. The
music recording industry has gotten most of the publicity for their
insanity, but many publishers (who are money-making corporations)
have gotten into the act.

There is generally a legal difference between copyright for a tune
and for the printed representation of a tune. For older tunes, the
notes can't be copyrighted, but a printed edition can be. It's legal
to copy older tunes by hand or play them in public, but it's illegal
to copy the published page itself without permission. For newer
tunes, since the notes themeselves are covered by copyright, you
can't legally copy or perform them in any fashion without permission.

You should check with local lawyers, but it's almost certain that any
copy of any page of Originally Ours is in fact illegal where you
live. Mechanical copies of any page are probably illegal, and if
there's a new copyrighted tune on the page, you can't legally copy it
by any method (including playing it on your instrument). Maybe the
RSCDS isn't going to sue anyone for the usual sort of cut-and-paste
page for a dance set, but this is legally irrelevant. The people who
wrote the new tunes presumably want them played at dances, so they're
not going to sue you, either. But if any of the musicians is paid
even a penny for playing, the copying is almost certainly illegal,
and it may be illegal even if they're not paid. We all do it, of
course, and we will continue to get away with it for at least a few
more years. But the fact that lots of people are committing a crime
doesn't make it legal.

Now, given that we aren't going to be sued for such usage, this is
mostly an academic exercise. But the RSCDS might consider adding a
few words to the next edition, to the effect that the usual copying
of a few pages for use during dancing is permitted. Especially to
RSCDS members. ;-)

Actually, considering the "customary use" or similar phrasing used in
some laws, this could already be legal where you live. And an RSCDS
membership could be legally considered a license to use their
material at dances. But you'd have to ask a local lawyer about that.
(Warning: This may be expensive.)

At least we haven't (yet) reached the stage where whistling a tune
while walking down the street is considered an unauthorized public
performance of copyrighted material. It'll take a few more years
before the laws reach that level of insanity.

Myself, I sorta enjoy the image of a bunch of musicians publicly
flaunting their disregard for the law by playing from a copyrighted
page at a public dance. And the fact that the RSCDS, an organization
working under the auspices of Her Majesty's government, is openly
encouraging such activity, is even more fun. At your next dance, you
might remind yourself those aren't stuffy RSCDS types; they are
vicious criminal elements going about their nefarious business of
copyright violation. You know, like those grandmothers who have
illegally copied music on their computers. And maybe soon like those
criminals whistling a tune in public.

What if the Hoky Poky really IS what it's all about?

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