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Did Kreisler copyright his pieces?


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I'd have to double-check the statute (since I am not practicing copyright and haven't looked into it since law school, and I know the terms were recently changed to come into accord with what the rest of the world is doing), so you can't take this as legal advice.

Copyright is actually a bundle of rights. We tend to think of it as a right to keep others from copying stuff, but it also includes the right to destroy the work (think sculpture) and create derivative works (other works based on your copyrighted work), and the right to prevent others from doing these things. Those are just examples, there aer other rights. Also, there are "moral rights" (though I can't recall if we added them to the US statute or not), such as the right to be identified as the author of a work. But that gets into a lot of theory that is only interesting in a nerdy kind of way, so I will spare you all.

U.S. copyright law has changed mutliple times since its inception. (Trivial pursuiters take note: the first copyright law was the English "Statute of Anne.") It used to be for a certain term (x years), and then you could renew for a certain term (y years). At one point there were second renewal terms. If I recall correctly, the newest revisions grant a single term, which is the life of the author (creator of the work--author doesn't just mean writer in this sense) plus z years. During the z years, as the author is dead, the copyright is administered by author's estate, or by whomever owns the copyright. (Copyrights are alienable; you can sell all or part of them.)

Common law copyright exists from the date the work is "fixed" into a form. This can be by writing (a score), or by recording (a tape), or by computer (disk, CD ROM). The point of registering a copyright is that (1) it gives you proof of a date certain for creation of the work (when it became fixed), and (2) you are entitled to statutory (which is basically more) infringement damages if someone violates your copyright. Copyright registration was also supposed to promote public policy, such as helping develop a national library (Library of Congress) and encouraging others to share their creations with the public (in exchange for expanded rights).

I am not, as I said, up to date on how this functions with music. (Sheet music, strangely enough, figured most prominently in the original copyright statutes.) When you purchase a copy (paper score) of a work (copyrighted music), you do not have the right to make a photocopy of it, or distribtue it. (The right to distribute is one of the bundle of rights.) The right to perform is another, separate, right. I imagine different publishers could have different policies, but it would make sense to me--and again, you cannot take this as legal advice--that the publisher would print any performance restrictions on the piece. If in doubt, contact them directly!

Note also that the right to record the work is an entirely separate question, as is the right to make a new work based on it (for example, by "sampling" a piece of it, or combining it with film, or writing an accompanyment).

I'm sure this leaves you clear as mud, but I hope some of it is helpful.

If you want to learn more about copyright and intellectual property law, I recommend the small paperback "nutshell" series published by West Publishing Company. These are short, thorough, and don't require and extensive legal background to be useful. I cannot remember if the correct title is "copyright law in a nutshell" or "intellecutal property law in a nutshell." CHECK THE PUBLICATION DATE. Make sure it is current.

You might also check Thomas, the Library of Congress website, for additional resources.

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Good question about Kreisler! He tried to pass off a number of his compositions as "newly discovered" works of Vivaldi, Bach, and others. So did he secretly copyright them anyway? I dunno.

The U.S. copyright law was drastically revised in 1976, making it unnecessary to file for copyright. As posted above, everything you create is automatically copyright protected as soon as you write it down or put it into some "tangible form." You can register the work with the Copyright Office if you want, and it's supposed to secure some certain advantages.

You can get the full poop at the official U.S. Copyright Office website: http://www.loc.gov/copyright/

Click on "copyright basics."

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My knowledge of copyright law is rusty, and I also believe the law has recently changed, so others may want to step in here. However, to my understanding, you don't have to "offically" copywright your intellectual property - the copywright is pretty much yours once you write a piece. You can help insure yourself against legal hassles by proving your copywright by, for example, mailing the piece to yourself and not opening the envelope once you receive it so you can prove in court that you wrote the piece, and when.

You can legally file for a copywright, as well. It can be extended beyond the 75 year period if it's renewed.

I believe that, for much classical music, the copywright is owned by either the estate of the person or the music publisher. When you buy a copy of a piece, you're also paying royalties to the owner of the piece. If you perform a piece in a recital, since you already paid the royalties, I think that you're ok. The exception is if that performance is broadcast, in which case the company broadcasting the piece has to pay royalties as agreed by the appropriate performance/broadcast-related union.

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Oldbear, while it is true you do not have to register, registration does allow you to prove up a creation date (as someone else claiming copyright may claim they created it first, and you copied it). In the international arena, some other countries have different rules about what constitutes proof of creation, and I imagine this would be handy there as well. Also, if you sue for infringement, you are entitled to much higher damages. Anyone who is serious about protecting their rights registers. (And also includes a copyritght notice and date on printed works--though that is not legally required either.)

The most recent adjustments to the copyright act were in the late 90s. (The 1976 Act has been amended several times before that, as well.) There have also been additional new laws that affect copyright in the digital/electronic zone.

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Seems that I read on that copyright website that registering copyright is necessary in order to sue for works created in the U.S.

I haven't taken IP yet (just a 1L smile.gif, but it seems to me that the "automatic" copyright you get when you make something is nothing more than a thumbs-up to slap a notice on something and sell it, if you need a registration in order to sue to enforce your rights. And of course, courts probably don't look favorably on copyrights registered after the work's authorship or infringement comes into question. crazy.gif

Interesting, the idea of "secretly" copyrighting something you made, but that you pass off as someone else's work. Funny should that person then sue you for infringement smile.gif



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Originally posted by Oldbear:

Good question about Kreisler! He tried to pass off a number of his compositions as "newly discovered" works of Vivaldi, Bach, and others. So did he secretly copyright them anyway? I dunno.

He did copyright the works. He claimed he was "arranging" such works, which counts as an original work that you can copyright. (You can't publish your own arrangement of a work under copyright, though -- but of course these supposed "old master" works wouldn't have been copyrighted anyway.)

Similarly, while a work like the Mozart 4th concerto is not covered by copyright, specific editions of it are.

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