[LINK] Ars: 'Musopen raises $40, 000 to set classical music "free"'

Richard Chirgwin rchirgwin at ozemail.com.au
Tue Sep 14 20:44:13 EST 2010

  On 14/09/10 4:12 PM, Kim Holburn wrote:
> On 2010/Sep/14, at 1:02 PM, Richard Chirgwin wrote:
>>   Picking over a detail...
>> On 14/09/10 11:54 AM, Roger Clarke wrote:
>>> ['Setting music free' is an attractive catch-phrase, because it's
>>> short.  But it's misleading.
>>> [Copyright in the sheet-music in question has already expired.  But
>>> copyright automatically subsists in performances and recordings of
>>> it.
>> Not quite ... the copyright over (say) a Beethoven *manuscript* has
>> already expired, as it has over many versions of the sheet music.
>> But a
>> new *edition* - say, a musicologist returning to the original
>> manuscripts and correcting errors, revising or modernising marks and
>> presentation, improving the pagination to make the work easier to
>> perform, etc - is copyright to the person creating the new edition.
>> Or at least, that's how I understand it!
> I think this is on the edge of acceptability.  I believe the recording
> industry has tried schemes like this to maintain copyright -
> remastering recordings and in the US it has not been successful as a
> way of maintaining or gaining copyright over performances.
To a degree, I will disagree.

A genuinely "new" edition takes an *awful* lot of work. To stick with 
Beethoven - he's a rich vein for academic transcriptions because:
- his manuscripts were genuinely hard to read!
- proof-reading a large and complex symphony is really difficult.
- in Beethoven's era, as I understand it, time was of the essence: the 
best protection for copyright was to be the first to publish; which 
meant that the editions may well get run out with un-corrected errors.
- some conventions in notation have changed over time.
- etc!

So producing a "better" or "more authentic" Ninth Symphony could 
genuinely represent a large amount of original work that justifies the 
copyright. Remember that the copyright applies *only* to that edition: 
it doesn't somehow retrospectively protect other peoples' previous editions.

> http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2009/11/about-those-beatles-songs-its-weirder-than-you-thought.ars
> http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20091117/1157566973.shtml
> Also of course the original music is still in the public domain.

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