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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000035.txt from 1998/04

From: Mitch Bassman <>
Subj: Arranging copyright works [was Re: Two copying questions]
Date: Wed, 1 Apr 1998 16:45:59 -0500

At 01:48 PM 4/1/98 -0600, Roger Garrett wrote:
>Again, it depends on the edition. But, quite frankly, if you are editing
>and transposing hymns which were in the public domain, you are not
>performing what is in front of you, rather, you are performing your own,
>copyrighted version of the original hymn. This could be supported by the
>changed key and voicing. If someone were to record you, they would have
>to prove that you were transposing that exact version of the hymn that
>they published and is covered under copyright.....something that would be
>hard to do if you changed the key and the voicing.

I fear we have drifted far from the intended topic of this clarinet mailing
list; nevertheless, I have to ask to question that will take this thread
one step farther afield.

A couple of years ago, (in my role as the musical director of a choir) I
took a (legally purchased) piano-vocal arrangement of a current song (not
in the public domain) and made my own arrangement (in the same key but with
different voicing) for SATB singers, flute, guitar, and bass. We performed
it (not for any fee). Several people remarked how wonderful the arrangement
was and that I ought to publish it. I declined, believing fully that I had
violated the copyright by not having asked the composer and copyright owner
in advance for permission to make the arrangement. Years later there is
still no published arrangement of that song for SATB, and we really wanted
to perform that song to honor a special person whose favorite it was.

So, I now ask the copyright mavens, how bad was I? If the copyright owner
finds out, will he or she come to my house and break all of my clarinet
reeds? If I did want to publish the arrangement (believing that a market
exists for it), should I have contacted the authorities in advance? What
now? Dare we sing this song ever again?

Mitch Bassman ... no, scratch that name. Just sign me:
The Lone Arranger

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