Copyright question - how much music is a quote?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by MoominDave, Mar 23, 2009.

  1. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    I decided a couple of days that it was about time that I dipped my toe into the Sibelius Music website; I've got lots of scores in Sibelius that I'm happy to share with the world, and it looks like a great resource. I don't really know why I haven't registered there previously, to be honest...

    So I tentatively uploaded one score to see how it went - a ditty I wrote for brass quintet a few years back entitled 'Prelude & Fugue Gadgetique', a parody of C19th gothic writing (such as Leon Boellmann's 'Suite Gothique') based around the theme from the cartoon series Inspector Gadget...

    I've just received back an email telling me that it has been rejected for inclusion on the grounds that "This score is in breach of copyright". I am under the impression that a small amount of material from copyright works can be included without violating copyright, as a musical quote. There are a number of musical statements of the 'Gadget' theme in the work, the longest running to some 16 bars (or, dependent on how it is barred, possibly 8 in the original, which I have never seen written down) comprising 17 notes of the tune, but the counterpoints that weave around the theme, and all other parts of the score, are entirely my own invention.

    Am I correct in my assumption? What does the law say exactly about this issue?

    For reference, the score is available online in zipped-up PDF format here (standard brass 5tet) and here for a 5tet of brass band instruments. The longest statement of the 'Gadget' theme is in the bottom two parts in octaves from bar 144 to the end.

    Any guidance would be appreciated! This has been downloadable from my website for 8 years now, and I'm wondering if I ought to have it taken down.
  2. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member


  3. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    I'm pretty sure that even the shortest quote needs to be approved for use. Could you get round it by altering the phrase, but so that those in the know would still spot the reference?
  4. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    I think you're opening up a can of worms here, Peter! I remember a large lawsuit placed against an artist George Duke for using material that was very similar to something the Average White Band wrote.
  5. Ali.Syme

    Ali.Syme Member

    I think large organisations (probably a lot more and a lot larger ones since the Inspector Gadget franchise took off with the film) will be looking at Sibelius' website to catch them out with violations hence why they need to be so careful. It's okay to do a spoof on a tune after a certain period of time when the rights are no longer enforced but I think the theme tune is too recent and can't be published. It's okay to play it I think but selling a recording or the music or something like that is what's illegal.
  6. mclaugh

    mclaugh Member

    In the US, a 16-bar quotation would almost certainly not pass the "Proportion/extent of the material used" test (duplicating excerpts that are short in relation to the entire copyrighted work or segments that do not reflect the "essence" of the work) of fair use (which is largely restricted to education purposes), unless the larger work substantially transforms the original, as in a parody, satire, etc.
  7. Anglo Music Press

    Anglo Music Press Well-Known Member

    There is no legal minimum. Obviously it has to be a recognisable chunk, but it's NOT OK to play it or arrange it without permission.
  8. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Ah. So maybe I have been labouring under a misapprehension all these years. I've sent an email to SibeliusMusic, asking for clarification - hopefully they will be able to point me directly at the relevant legislation.

    I wonder who holds the copyright for the tune? I'd hope that they'd be understanding about the circumstances, and simply glad for their music to gain more exposure, but you can never be sure, particularly when corporations get involved - and I take the point that since the launch of the film [which postdates my piece by several years], they may be more protective than previously. Did the film in fact use the same main theme as the original cartoon series? I never got around to watching it.
    A quick online search doesn't turn up much of use, though it does find an example of somebody flouting their copyright much more blatantly than I may have inadvertently done:

    It's a 16-bar quotation of the melody, surrounded by my own counterpoint, not the whole harmonic texture; in my judgement, I'd say that it has been substantially transformed.

    Not really. The title of the piece rather gives it away, as do the online programme notes. I'd rather take it down than mess around turning it into something hamfisted.
  9. davidsait

    davidsait Member

    (Dave, in case you're wondering, I am lurking in the shadows here and watching with interest :) )
    MoominDave likes this.
  10. SuperMosh

    SuperMosh New Member

    So with that logic on board, I wrote my own book called 'Jane Air' and the opening sentence goes....

    "There was no possibility of being outside and using my legs to propel me at a speed equivalent to walking pace that day"

    Isn't altering the phrase similar to wanging some notes into Sibelius and changing the key signature?

    Can't remember the exact guidelines but seem to remember some rule from Uni where you could thieve I mean quote 5% of a document or text providing the source was acknowledged.....
  11. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    AFAIK you're referring to what's known as "fair dealing", but this exemption has fairly strict uses - only for academic study or some sort of scholarly analysis. I am unaware that this "fair dealing" clause applies to quoting extracts from other works in musical composition - before anyone leaps in with examples of where it has been done, I know people do it but I don't think it's legal.

    So for instance an in-depth critique of the harmonic structure of "Inspector Gadget" for the Musical Times might be OK :rolleyes:, but writing variations on it without the copyright holder's permission wouldn't be.

    On the basis that Dave has said that this theme recurs several times in the work I suspect that Sibelius would have a stong legal basis for keeping it off their site.
  12. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Have a look at the score if you like (linked to in the first post) - fragments appear throughout much of the piece, and it is stated in a fuller version at the end. From responses here it does sound like it's probably not okay, though.

    I'll post what SibeliusMusic say when I receive a reply - assuming that that reply says the same thing, I'll arrange to have it taken down, and consider contacting the copyright holder. Do you think that contacting them would be a good idea, or might it be best just taken down quietly? I'm a little concerned that bringing the fact that copies have been downloaded for free all over the world for years might incite them to want to extract some substantial sum of money from me...
  13. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    PS I've just had a quick look Dave and you use the theme quite a lot - as the main theme of the fugue for instance. I'm not a copyright lawyer or an expert, but my layman's opinion would be that you need copyright permission to use the theme that much. If I were you I'd take it off my website ;)
  14. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Yeah, working it in all over the place was kind of the original point... Thanks for taking the time to have a detailed look!
  15. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    Yeah, might be best NOT to mention that. :eek:

    There's no harm in asking, but I would be careful of letting them know that a) you've already done the work and b) people have copies of it, otherwise m'learned friends might be on the phone :rolleyes:
  16. MartinT

    MartinT Member

    Sueperc and I are a bit sad at the thought that Dave might have to take down this hilarious piece. Sue actually wanted it played at our wedding in 2002, but Dave, trusting to his musical instincts, demurred ;) .
    I think it's a comment on the absurd over-emphasis on "intellectual property" today that a gentle leg-pull of a piece like this is thought to raise a risk of legal action.
  17. Anglo Music Press

    Anglo Music Press Well-Known Member

    I don't quite understand why you think there is an 'over-emphasis on intellectual property today'. Copyright law has been around for over a century. Laws only need emphasising when they are broken.

    Dave could probably quite easily get permission to make the arrangement legally. To wish for a law that says 'it's OK to steal sometimes, especially when your pulling someone's leg' is patently ridiculous. Laws need to be able to be enforced and therefore clear lines need to be drawn.

    You can get a loaf of bread by stealing one or buying one. If you think it's OK to steal one sometimes, then we'll have to agree to disagree!

    (You could, of course, make your own loaf of bread, but someone might steal it for a joke.........)
  18. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Following Mr. Sparke's analogy, there is some useful reading regarding the use of samples here. The principles and ethics are the same.
  19. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Oh, and on this area of thought, who would be approached for permission when arranging The Beatles song "All You Need Is Love" when it contains samples of other composers' ideas?
  20. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Now, before anyone reminds me that Thijs Oud has it already arranged, I know that ... but it only contains the Bach Two Part Invention and She Loves You samples but no more. It doesn't (in my opinion) create the trippy sequence that George Martin intended and succeeded with the original.

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