Copyright Guidance Needed

Theory and practice of composition and arranging for classical guitar, discussion of works in progress, etc.
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Composers' Workshop
Theory and practice of composition and arranging for classical guitar, discussion of works in progress, etc.

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Copyright Guidance Needed

Post by fatwarry » Tue Jun 21, 2016 2:37 pm

I've arranged a few O'carolan pieces and would like to post them in the "Our Scores" section. The original tunes are public domain. However, one of the arrangements is not entirely my own work.

What happened was that I made my own arrangement and wasn't happy with it. Then I found that I had three different arrangements in my "library" that I've bought over the years and I cobbled together a version that I'm happy with from these plus some of my own version. So, while the final piece is different from any published version that I own, about two thirds of it is "borrowed" from published versions. Would I be in breach of copyright if I post it to the forum? If so, what if I credit the other arrangers? Is there a suitable form of words?

Any advice greatly appreciated
"I'll let you be in my dream if I can be in yours" - Bob Dylan (1963)

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Re: Copyright Guidance Needed

Post by guitarrista » Tue Jun 21, 2016 5:41 pm

Copyright law varies by country, but in general, it would depend on whether the arrangements you used are in the public domain or not. Assuming they are not public domain, and that you have not obtained a license or permission from the copyright owners, then you have likely created an unauthorized derivative work. This is not 100% clear - read through - but is very likely. And, certainly, do NOT post this work here on the delcamp forum - Mr. Delcamp takes copyright law very seriously and would always err on the side of caution.
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Re: Copyright Guidance Needed

Post by pogmoor » Tue Jun 21, 2016 8:54 pm

Broadly speaking I agree with guitarrista. I don't claim to be an expert on copyright law, but I do make a lot of arrangements from public domain pieces, some of which have also been arranged by other people - so I am familiar with a lot of the issues.

As with many aspects of law the answer will depend on the specifics of the individual case. In the case of O'Carolan's work the original sources consist only of the tunes themselves. O'Carolan's own arrangements are not preserved. As a consequence arrangements of his works for classical guitar do require quite a bit of creative effort from the arranger - in deciding the harmonies and how they should be voiced. I think this means that if an arranger comes across your version and sees that a substantial proportion of the arrangement is exactly the same as his (or hers) then (s)he would regard it as an infringement of copyright. On the other hand, if a only couple of bars here and there is the same as another version then I don't think there would be a case.

In the case of a work where the original arrangement is preserved the situation might be quite different. If you can show that you have gone back to the primary source, or an earlier public domain version, then your arrangement will not break copyright even if it does resemble someone else's published version.
Eric from GuitarLoot
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