Copyright permissions

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by MoominDave, Aug 17, 2007.

  1. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Looking for a bit of info on a process I'm rather ignorant of here...

    I have an idea for a transcription (piano to chamber orchestra) that I think would work rather well. The composer of the original (not a UK national or resident) died in the 1960s, and so it is still in copyright in the UK, and will remain so for a long time yet - until the New Year following the 70th anniversary of their death. Firstly, can anyone confirm that my understanding is correct on this?

    Although the scoring is an interesting exercise in itself, I would like to arrange a performance or two - or maybe even have it published, if there is interest. Are these two cases ( i) arrangement only for a limited number of performances, not to be published, or ii) arrangement to be commercially published) substantially different in the way that they should be approached?

    Now suppose I went ahead and did the scoring without consulting anyone. With it complete, should my approach change at all? What is the legal situation with doing this?

    All insights appreciated - as I said, I know very little about who to approach, or what their likely reaction would be to the various cases, as I have conscientiously avoided copyright work in my past musical projects...
  2. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    Hello there and welcome to the minefield of copyright!

    Firstly, your understanding is correct. Copyright becomes public domain on january 1st of the 71st year after the original composer kicked the bucket. (Check TMp's copyright FAQ for further info about this sort of thing.)

    The first thing you need to do is find out who owns the copyright for the original work, and contact them for permission to arrange. Usually if you're just looking to perform it with one ensemble and not publish, you can often get a single-copy permission for a nominal fee.

    Usually they'll want to see a copy of your arrangement before they grant permission, to make sure it's up to scratch and so they've got a copy, but it's illegal to start arranging it until they've yold you to do so.

    You'll have to put a copyright acknowledgement on the score and parts too if permission is granted.

    As for publishing it if they like your arrangement, someone else would be better to answer that, as most of the stuff I've had published has been off copyright.

    If it's an on-copyright arrangement I've got one-copy permission for, I forward it on to Gavin Somerset at Pennine Music, and if he reckons it's worth putting out he does the chasing for me, bless his socks! So I suppose my advice would be... find a publisher like Gav!

    Good luck. The world needs more composers and arrangers!
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2007
  3. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    Hi Dave,

    There are plenty of people here who should be able to help with the specifics of your inquiry, but as a starting point I suggest you have a good read of the tMP Copyright Factsheet.

    I know there are also a number of other threads with similar enquiries. I'm at work at present so not able to spend time searching out threads myself, but if you try searching for something like "copyright" and go through the results then you might find what you're looking for.

    Hope this helps.


    EDIT: There you go. As if anyone needed proof - beaten to it!! :)
  4. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Do you know, I'd actually forgotten about the existence of the tMP factsheet? :oops:

    It deals thoroughly with all the specific legal questions, which is great. So, I imagine that the process would go something like:
    i) I email the copyright holder (having established who they are!) asking for permission to make this arrangement.
    ii) The copyright holder responds either 'yea' or 'nay' (hopefully by email, so it is in writing).
    If 'nay' then stop, do not pass go, do not collect £200...
    iii) If 'yea' then I busy myself, do the arrangement, and submit it to them for approval.
    iv) They then give a further 'yea'/'nay' decision on whether it is suitably good.
    If 'nay', then stop, do not etc... etc... Might they ask for all copies to be destroyed at this point? Could they legally have this enforced?
    v) If 'yea', then I have my permitted arrangement, great. I can now put on a concert featuring it.
    Does that bear any resemblance to reality?

    So if that is correct, my remaining questions focus on the best way to approach the copyright holders. The salient facts are that the piano piece in question is by a well respected 20th-century composer (it is Paul Hindemith's "Ludus Tonalis"), and is of substantial duration (about 50 minutes). If I recall correctly, the copyright is held by B. Schott, who are an international publishing company with a substantial catalogue of 'serious' works for both orchestra and piano. So the work is something that is taken seriously by the copyright holders and other people that they might involve in the process (such as professional musicians, who might be consulted as to whether the arrangement is a good one or not, I suppose).
    I on the other hand, am not obviously a leading candidate for the job of transcribing it. I am an amateur/semi-pro musician who has composed and arranged quite a bit for mostly brass settings. Some of my work has been performed professionally, and the feedback I get from it has always been good. I have performed a large amount of repertoire in both large and small orchestras by amateur standards. But I am not a full-time professional score-writer or musician, and I have no real past experience in scoring for strings or woodwind. I would obviously consult players of my acquaintance in scoring decisions, and I am reasonably familiar with the recommendations in Forsyth's scoring book (which I know is a number of years out of date - for example, the section on the trombone is a bit of a joke in some ways, though it does contain perceptive insights).

    My concern, then, is that I would approach the copyright holder with the proposal, and they would respond "But you have no serious background, you're obviously not going to make as good a job of it as we'd like. Please don't bother sending us a score, we won't take it seriously."
    Is that a realistic concern, or is it just paranoia? Might it be sensible if they did raise this point to paint my potential work as an attempt to bring an unfairly neglected piece to a wider audience?

    Then, supposing all those hurdles, imaginary or real, are jumped, how would I go about interesting a publisher? Is it a likely project for a publisher to be interested in? What publishers should I approach?

    Thanks for the informative responses so far.
  5. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    Yup, that's about the shape of it from my experience.

    I think they'd most likely want to see the arrangement first. I've never had a company refuse out of hand. (And I've no musical qualifications except a GCSE!) So give it a go! Whether thay take it seriously or not, and bear in mind they'll be getting a small fee for the permission, and a regular fee if it gets published, is not usually a major concern as they only administer the copyright, not the music itself.

    You've got me there. As for publications for orchestra, I've not a clue! However lots of folks on here have orchestral connections so hopefully someone will come forward about that.

    Generally if you can get it recorded, you've more chance of getting it published than otherwise.

    Good luck fella.
  6. Anglo Music Press

    Anglo Music Press Well-Known Member

    If it's any help, I would advise getting permission from Schott before putting a single note on paper, as they are VERY hot on copyright.

    But I don't think they would consider you unsuitable. They would probably say go ahead with the arrangement, buit request to see it before it's performed or published. But I imagine they would say 'yes' unless the Hindemith estate are particularly paranoid. (Like the music sounds!!)
  7. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    There y'go dave. 100 times more experience than I've got right there!
  8. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Thanks Philip, that's set my mind at rest a bit. I am too good at putting imaginary difficulties in my way sometimes!
  9. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member


    :oops: ... :eek:
  10. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Now ... can someone explain the legalities of the agreement above? I'm not even seeking profit or charging a fee for the arrangement.
  11. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    It seems like the conditions requested from my Dad when he enquired about a well-known item for a massed blow at one of the tuba conferences. £50 for what was probably going to be a one-off performance, with a work that was within a couple of years of coming into the Public Domain anyway (and this was only discovered a few weeks beforehand!)
  12. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    My situation is that the composer's estate had given their consent for me to go ahead with the arrangement and that asking for permission would be a formality. I was given a contact for Schott and it ended up going to MDS (Musical Distribution Services) who really issue hire licences for works. I have read up on 'Music For Hire' and some sites have shyed away from defining the 3rd party arranger in the context of commissions as purely paid jobs. I am happy with the publishers taking control of the work and it's distribution but I am not chuffed at doing something and not seeing it being used by bands who want to perform it.
  13. Anglo Music Press

    Anglo Music Press Well-Known Member

    This seems perfectly standard to me and not unreasonable. Schott own the copyright and are charged to exploit it.

    This would probably be a standard agreement in the non-band world. We are used to too much abuse of copyright law as you know and perhaps the goal posts need to be moved. For example, Schott would be quite within their rights to charge a hire fee for the music whenever it is recorded - even though they may not physically handle it. This happened when I was with Polyphonic with a band arrangement of Carmina Burana. They charged almost £1000 hire for three short movements even though they didn't actually ever SEE the music! It's standard orchestral hire practice.

    The orchestral hire library is the main source of income for most 'classical' publishers. Modern music is not published and distributed as we know it. The music is usually only available on hire and standard terms apply. Hire fees are large and charges for recording and broadcasting go way beyond what we band composers get!!
  14. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    It's a bit of a contradiction in terms though! I already have a bought score and the 'hire' seems to apply to it's usage. The composer in question is coming back into popularity and I was beginning to question whether my arrangement might be a threat to the older band version already in their catalogue (although the source is different to that one). As I said before, I am not out for profit and the piece in question would be ideal for banding today that wants to still maintain a heritage 'feel' to it's concert repertoire. Looks like I may have to bin this project under these circumstances.

    [... will continue this when I get home this evening!]
  15. Anglo Music Press

    Anglo Music Press Well-Known Member

    I assume the hire element is not to do with the score you have bought, but with YOUR arrangement. It will in theory be in Schott's hire library (as they do not publish band music) and all future use of your arrangment will be a transaction by their hire library. This is all an educated guess, you understand!
  16. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Well, I've sent an email to Schott to request permission...
    Let's assume that I get a response similar to BrassNeck - the implications of which seem really rather far-reaching; let me check that I understand it all correctly...

    i) (point 2) I would have to pay £50 + VAT = £58.75 straight up for them to even consider giving permission. Fair enough, they have to cover their costs. Given the length of the piece in question, I hope that this amount isn't proportional to the duration!
    ii) (points 1 and 5) I would forfeit all potential rights to my arrangement. Schott would retain it and all rights to it, but would be under no obligation to publish it or make it available. Would they be likely to want to publish it, assuming that it is of good quality?
    iii) (point 3) I would have to ensure two recorded performances at my own expense just to fulfil the agreement. A considerable investment of both time and money in this case! Would I have to hire the music back from them for this purpose, or could I use my original score and parts?

    If Schott were to take exclusive control, would that mean that my personal copies were no longer legal?
    If Schott did not wish to publish it, and I wished to see it published, how would I go about this? Should I then send it to other publishing houses, stating that Schott held the copyright? I imagine that this would be a large disincentive for others to undertake to publish it.
    If Schott (or someone else) did publish it, would I receive any money?? I see nothing that deals with any rights for me, the arranger.
  17. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

    More to the point, assuming I'm understanding this correctly, if they do subsequently decided that there is a potential market for your arrangement and decide to publish it, they are apparently under no obligation to pay you anything for your work ... ???

    Like I say, I am by no means confident that my understanding of this clause is correct, but if it is, then I have a big problem with this aspect of the licensing procedure.
  18. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Yes, this is one part that I am concerned about. It looks likely that I will left a good deal out of pocket from this, with no prospect of future financial reward.

    Now, I don't want to take this project on specifically in order to make a profit - but equally, I don't want to be hustled into a poor position by companies taking full advantage of laws that were written for their benefit. It does look as if there is a large hole in the legislation that has the effect of deterring those who work on projects because they interest them, rather than as a commercial transaction. I'm hoping that I'm being overly cynical, and am waiting with crossed fingers by my email account...
  19. Anglo Music Press

    Anglo Music Press Well-Known Member

    I shouldn't be speaking of behalf of Schott really, but this is what I assume they mean (and what is usually the case)

    The copyright of the music is theirs. The copyright of the arrangement is strictly the arrangers and anyone who publishes it should pay you a fee or royalty for it. Schott don't publish band music (and would have no obligation to do so) so it would need to be published by a specialist who therefore would need to pay both the arranger and Schott a fee (not much incentive there!)

    I don't think they expect a CD recording, but if it is recorded, they would like copies.

    The fee would be for permission to arrange - not for them to consider granting permission.

    As I'm on holiday at the moment and am already assuming too much, I'll leave this discussion here!!

    Good luck to all.
  20. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

    The wording of the quotation from Schott (which is pretty much identical to that on other licences I've seen (and in some cases grudgingly signed (!))) is:

    "Signature of our "work for hire" agreement, assigning all copyright in your arragement to Schott Music Limited"

    Granted, I'm no lawyer, but that seems pretty black'n'white to me.

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