COPYRIGHT-'tis a puzzlement

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by TIMBONE, Nov 4, 2003.


    TIMBONE Active Member

    I have been composing and arranging music for over 30 years, I am unpublished, however, over the years I have done a lot of 'one off' commisions, which has included broadcasts and recordings. I feel it may be useful to give a 'laymans' guide to copyright, this may explain some of the 'puzzlements'.

    Here are some of my experiences, which I will categorise.


    I provided the music for a half hour radio programme, this included arrangments of copyright material for chamber orchestra and choir. My fee was a one off payment, the producer of the programme dealt with the returns to any composers, every time the programme was broadcast, the composer would receive royalties.


    I arranged a song from a musical for symphony orchestra and chorus. This was for a concert in Birmingham, which was recorded live. My arrangment was included on the record. HOWEVER, although the composer received royalties from each copy sold, I only received my one off payment.


    I did several arrangments for a male voice choir. I notified the publisher of each piece, sent them the arrangment, which was stamped and returned. The provision was that it was for the sole use of that particular choir. Again, my fee was a one off payment, I was only the arranger, (unpublished), the composer would of course be entitled to royalties for any public performance.

    I would like to attempt to answer a question that arrises time and time again. There is no law against 'doing things' with copyright music in the privacy of your own home. You can sing your favourite Robbie Williams song, play and record "Harry Potter" on your 'mega-mix state of the art home recording console', or arrange your favourite Atomic Kitten for balalaika and hand bells, IT IS WHEN YOU WANT TO PUT IT IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN that the legalities begin.

    Another point concerns publishers. A composer may well say, "I don't mind you arranging my brass band piece for orchestra". The publisher however, who holds the copyright, may not want to publish it. This is nothing to do with 'permission', this is because the publisher will not invest in something which he feels is a risk - IT MAY NOT MAKE A PROFIT. A publisher is a business.

    One final point. In the 1970's, the inimitable ISAO TOMITA did an 'electronic' recording of the "Planet Suite" by Gustav Holst. Imogen Holst, (Gustav's daughter), took it to court, and the recording was withdrawn in the UK. (It was re-released after her death).

    I hope these few snippets help.

  2. Roger Thorne

    Roger Thorne Active Member

    Wem, Shropshire UK
    Thanks for the information Tim.

    You may all be interested to learn that The team along with some eminent 'Professionals' from the world of Brass Bands and Publishing are putting together a basic 'laymans' guide to copyright, which will become available very soon.

  3. neiltwist

    neiltwist Active Member

    excellent! maybe when i know what's legal you'll all start to hear my brilliant arrangements! or not!

    but good idea anyway!
  4. iggmeister

    iggmeister Member

    I hope that when the tMP guide comes online that you address some of the very incorrect comments made by TIMBONE in his post above.

    No disrespect TIMBONE but you are way off on a couple of things there. As a lawyer myself, it is worrying when I advise some of my clients. The reason is that because they have come to see me a couple of times about similar matters, e.g. landlord and tenant, that they can suddenly do all of the work themselves whithout my assistance.

    A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

    I say this because I see it day in, day out when people come in to see me perplexed why things didn't pan out as they expected when they followed my (or somebody else's) advice in the past.


    TIMBONE Active Member

    I presume that you are refering to the paragraph where I say "there is no law against........." This is to some extent 'tongue in cheek', as I am fully aware of the 'letter of the law'. The spirit of the law here, (if there is such a thing!!!), is that if a person does something for their own private use, then noone is any the wiser, and they are not doing what copyright exists for, ie, making money out of somebody elses idea.
    The three examples given earlier, BROADCAST, RECORDING and COMMISION, were activities which I had been involved in - I presume that the BBC and WORD RECORDS UK, (a division of CBS), knew what they were doing.
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