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Taking Care of Business
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Old November 19th, 2002, 05:09 AM   #1
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Music for your Soundtrack - The Neverending Search for a Loophole

I know that the bottom line is you can't use any copyrighted music in your soundtrack without permission...but what about original performances of classical music?

If an un-agented performer gives you permission to use a recording of their performance of, say, a work by Bach...a recording they financed themselves...is everything copacetic? Or does someone own the rights to the compositions of the famous classical composers? if so, how do the thousands of music students around the world get away with performing Mozart, Beethoven, etc. etc.?
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Old November 19th, 2002, 06:36 AM   #2
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Performances and arrangements can be copyrighted. It sounds as if you might be in the clear. Check the sheet music and see what the copyright limitations are. I know of several studios that have been busted (threatened actually) for using classical music. They thought, Hey, Beethoven is dead. How can his music be copyrighted 300 years later? But it's the performance of the music that is copyrighted. I was doing a project for the University of Cincinnati and they wanted very specific music. I told them they had not budgeted for that and it wasn't in the script. Well, they insisted and I said get your orchestra to play it and I'll record it. They ran it by their legal people and checked the arraignment and then gave it the OK. Went off without a hitch.

Jeff
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Old November 19th, 2002, 07:37 AM   #3
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<<They ran it by their legal people and checked the arraignment and then gave it the OK.>>

That's good to know, Jeff. Looks like I might go classical then.
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Old November 19th, 2002, 10:51 AM   #4
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Now I'm not an expert on this, but this is what I've heard. The
musical piece itself (the tune, notes etc.) are not copyrighted if
someone has been dead for long. BUT if you pull it off a
CD or something the recording and performance (ie,
the orchestra etc.) IS (usually) copyrighted. So you cannot
use that.

However. Most people tend to know someone who can play some
classical pieces on a piano. Might be interesting pieces that you
can record yourself.

Just a thought...
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Old November 19th, 2002, 08:06 PM   #5
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I did have a musical upbringing, Rob. Played piano, drums, and bassoon (strange combo, eh?). I haven't touched a keyboard in a long while, but I'd be interested in trying to add some simple touches to the soundtrack.

Any advice on what keyboard/software setups combine well with a Mac G4? Preferably a sampling keyboard and software that allows in-computer composition as well as recording live performance. Do any keyboards connect via Firewire now, or do you still need MIDI (you can see I've been out of it for awhile)?
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Old November 24th, 2002, 01:35 PM   #6
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I am not a copyright lawyer... but I AM married to one.

Seriously.

And she is really picky about how and when I use/license music. But the bottom line is , yeah, the old classical pieces are in the public domain, but any recording of them you are likely to find is not. So record it yourself, by playing it yourself or paying someone else to perform it. Just make sure they sign over the synch rights.

I think if you run your instruments through a mixer, and then the line out of the mixer into your line "in" of your sound card, you are good to go. From there, you can alter it in any of the music apps.
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Old November 24th, 2002, 05:18 PM   #7
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Hi Bill,

I'm not looking for legal advice but I'm curious on one point. The arrangement of the classical music would be copyrighted wouldn't it? I wonder how much you have to change to make it an original arrangement?

Jeff
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Old November 25th, 2002, 01:05 PM   #8
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Right, a particular arrangement (score) for a piece might be copyrighted by a particular composer (arranger). The underlying work however, would be in the public domain. So if you have a the original arrangement of a classical piece, youre on safe ground. You are of course, free to re-arrange it. (This then, becomes a "derivative" work,)
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Old December 1st, 2002, 09:20 AM   #9
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The confusion comes from the fact that there are different kinds of copyright that apply to different kinds of original works.

My wife is a professional violinist and music prof. and this comes up all the time. In the case of printed music (the scores) the copyright often applies to different "editions" of a piece that contain various editorial or interpretive additions (like fingerings, bowings, cadenzas, arrangements and the like) to the music. These scores with extras can be copyrighted -- and one just cannot copy these and pass them around like one was a publisher. This is how Suzuki gets away with a copyright on Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star. What's copyrighted here is not the music per se, but the interpretive/educational extras.

There are printed versions of classical pieces that claim no copyright -- Dover is one popular source.

A performance of a piece that has been recorded can also be copyrighted, but the performance (itself an original work) belongs, generally, to the performer or recording company, but that copyright generally applies to the performance only.

There are cases like musicals where one cannot get the book or score except by special contractial arrangement governing performance of the work that goes beyond simple copyright. Typically one has to agree that the performance will not be recorded or filmed in any way -- but this is contract more than copyright.

The solution I use to this problem is to visit my local college and find students who will play or compose music for me and I end up owning the rights to the performace for film use of the music/performance. There are many many talented student players and composers that one can hire at reasonable rates. If one plays one's cards right, they often have access to campus faclities including recording spaces. This is a win win -- one gets good music and helps fellow developing artists -- the students get a performace opportunity, resume building credit etc. If you can't find students, there are lost of underemployed muscians out there who are good players at reasonable rates.
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Old December 1st, 2002, 06:02 PM   #10
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Thanks, Peter...and everyone. Looks like classical music with original performances is the way to go to fit no-budget productions.
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