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May 14, 2006


Eric Redlinger

Thanks for the fantastic deconstruction of this mysterious process, John - now I'm wondering how music arranging fits in to this. For instance, ASTERIA creates their own arrangments for lute and voices from original period vocal manuscripts as in many cases there is no modern edition of the music or the existing edition is hopelessly flawed. Obviously we are not the original authors of the music itself, but I wonder to what degree our work in arranging this music constitutes something publishable...

John Buckman

ASTERIA creates their own arrangments for lute and voices from original period vocal manuscripts as in many cases there is no modern edition of the music

If your changes are substantial, what you're doing, as far as the law is concerned, is not an arrangement at all, but a new work, that was inspired by the medieval source. Authors do this all the time, lifting old myths and writing new novels from that base, and this is absolutely considered a new work.

In the ASCAP agreement, I remember reading that if you register a work that is actually public domain as your own, and they notice this, that they'll remove your registration of the work.

However, the test for originality is extremely low, and recent court decisions have found editions of public domain works that do nothing more than make corrections to the score, are themselves newly copyrighted works.

I know of a classical record label that registers themselves as the copyright holder on all the works they release, even though they're all public domain works, with corrections and interpretative changes by the performer. This nets them a good amount of money, with as far as I can tell, no risk or negative consequences possible.

So, my recommendation would be to register your songs as written by you. In Asteria's case, since you're creating an instrumental lute part yourself, and just using a vocal manuscript, this seems pretty defensible to me.

I just received 10 minutes ago your new CD from Teresa -- I'm REALLY excited to hear it, and thanks for putting the magnatune URL on the CD tray insert, much appreciated. And the "mouvement nouveau" web site will be happy to see their great review comments there too.


Paul Dickson

A correction: in the USA, performance royalties are *not* paid "every time a movie is shown". They are paid if it is shown on television, but not if it is shown in a theater.

Also, "musicians" can not join a PRO. Only publishers and writers (composers and lyricists). If you perform music written by somebody else, that other person gets paid by the PRO, not you.

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