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Origins: Trad. Songs: Trad. or Copyrighted?

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GUEST,Susie R. (At Work) 03 Aug 07 - 11:07 AM
The Borchester Echo 03 Aug 07 - 11:23 AM
EuGene 03 Aug 07 - 11:31 AM
Peace 03 Aug 07 - 11:56 AM
GUEST,peter 03 Aug 07 - 12:00 PM
GUEST,Bill 03 Aug 07 - 12:09 PM
Peace 03 Aug 07 - 12:13 PM
Don Firth 03 Aug 07 - 12:49 PM
greg stephens 03 Aug 07 - 12:58 PM
Peace 03 Aug 07 - 01:02 PM
KeithofChester 03 Aug 07 - 01:03 PM
GUEST,Crazy Man Michael 03 Aug 07 - 01:31 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 03 Aug 07 - 02:05 PM
Peace 03 Aug 07 - 02:08 PM
Joe Offer 03 Aug 07 - 02:09 PM
Peace 03 Aug 07 - 02:19 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 03 Aug 07 - 02:50 PM
PoppaGator 03 Aug 07 - 03:46 PM
Stewart 03 Aug 07 - 04:13 PM
philgarringer 04 Aug 07 - 12:21 AM
Peace 04 Aug 07 - 12:41 AM
Liz the Squeak 04 Aug 07 - 02:33 AM
The Borchester Echo 04 Aug 07 - 03:07 AM
GUEST,Crazy Man Michael 04 Aug 07 - 04:29 PM
GUEST,docf.tom 05 Aug 07 - 06:19 AM
EBarnacle 05 Aug 07 - 08:22 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 05 Aug 07 - 03:35 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 05 Aug 07 - 03:39 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 05 Aug 07 - 03:56 PM
Steve Shaw 05 Aug 07 - 08:20 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 05 Aug 07 - 10:44 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 05 Aug 07 - 11:00 PM
Taconicus 06 Jan 11 - 08:29 PM
Crane Driver 02 Oct 12 - 07:11 AM
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Subject: Origins: Trad. Songs: Trad. or Copyrighted?
From: GUEST,Susie R. (At Work)
Date: 03 Aug 07 - 11:07 AM

How can you make sure a Traditional song is really Traditional and "not" copyrighted? There are certain songs I thought were Traditional that turn out to be written by others "and" copyrighted.

Thanks in advance.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Trad. Songs: Trad. or Copyrighted?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 03 Aug 07 - 11:23 AM

A song may be Traditional (no known author) or not (the author is known).
Or (believe it or not) someone may have tried to pass it off as their own work and been found out (tsk).
Or vice versa (tsk TSK. Who would do THAT? Might they have the initials AAL?)

Alternatively, someone might have copyrighted their own arrangement and thus be entitled to royalties.
This is perfectly legitimate, The arranger is entitled to payment for work done,

Whatever.
If your inquiry is related to how to attribute songs you are recording, that's why we have the PRS.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Trad. Songs: Trad. or Copyrighted?
From: EuGene
Date: 03 Aug 07 - 11:31 AM

PRS? Eu


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Subject: RE: Origins: Trad. Songs: Trad. or Copyrighted?
From: Peace
Date: 03 Aug 07 - 11:56 AM

Performing Right Society


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Subject: RE: Origins: Trad. Songs: Trad. or Copyrighted?
From: GUEST,peter
Date: 03 Aug 07 - 12:00 PM

I met a guy who played for a band that opened for Cowboys Junkies
and performed the traditional song - hard rock miners - the Junkies asked if they could use it on their cd and now this guys house and car were all paid for thanks to the royalties from the song. So I guess you can copyright trad songs.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Trad. Songs: Trad. or Copyrighted?
From: GUEST,Bill
Date: 03 Aug 07 - 12:09 PM

Bob Dylan does it all the time.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Trad. Songs: Trad. or Copyrighted?
From: Peace
Date: 03 Aug 07 - 12:13 PM

I find something odious about taking a traditional song and NOT saying it's traditional. I have always had an appreciation for folks who do an arrangement and take credit for it, but also state that it is based on a traditional melody/lyrics. You use someone's arrangement and they deserve the credit for the arrangement, not the song itself.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Trad. Songs: Trad. or Copyrighted?
From: Don Firth
Date: 03 Aug 07 - 12:49 PM

This whole copyright thing in relation to traditional songs is a real can of worms. As I understand it, back in the early 1960s, no less than nineteen people were trying to claim copyright to Greensleeves. I would have really loved to see that one come to court!

Ethnomusicologists and folk purists may want to stick pins in a wax image of my behind, but when I learn a traditional song, what I often do is listen to several different versions of it, and look at any versions of it that I can find it in song books, and what eventually comes out may be either a fairly pure rendition of one particular version, or an amalgam of several versions, or any point in between. I invoke the principle of "minstrel's prerogative." And I work out my own guitar accompaniments.

It would never occur to me to copyright my "arrangements." And certainly not the song.

But as I understand it, a lot of this stuff came about in the late 1950s and early 1960s when folk music got a lot of radio play. Radio stations are nicked a couple of times a year by BMI and ASCAP for their play-lists and a check to cover royalties for the various people who own copyrights on the songs on those lists. That's standard operating procedure in most radio stations. So the question is, "Who gets the royalties for this song?" And the guy who recorded the (traditional) song, realizing that someone is going to get the royalties, figures it may as well be him and says, "I do." Followed by either, "I wrote the song," or "That's my arrangement."

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Origins: Trad. Songs: Trad. or Copyrighted?
From: greg stephens
Date: 03 Aug 07 - 12:58 PM

How you answer this quesation depends totally on what country you are in, the laws vary widely.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Trad. Songs: Trad. or Copyrighted?
From: Peace
Date: 03 Aug 07 - 01:02 PM

And Greg brings up a very important issue. Copyright laws are a mess.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Trad. Songs: Trad. or Copyrighted?
From: KeithofChester
Date: 03 Aug 07 - 01:03 PM

Then there's the one where you erroneously attribute something you wrote as "trad" on both the versions of your new album, your record company puts that right when they issue the track as a single and then you find a dozen or so people who ought to know better have nominated it as "best traditional song" for a fairly prestiguous award...


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Subject: RE: Origins: Trad. Songs: Trad. or Copyrighted?
From: GUEST,Crazy Man Michael
Date: 03 Aug 07 - 01:31 PM

"Might they have the initials AAL?"

You don't mean ALL? :-O *LOL*


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Subject: RE: Origins: Trad. Songs: Trad. or Copyrighted?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 03 Aug 07 - 02:05 PM

As Diane Easby said near the beginning of this thread, arrangers are entitled to payment for work done. Their rights are protected by copyright.
I fail to see anything wrong in that.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Trad. Songs: Trad. or Copyrighted?
From: Peace
Date: 03 Aug 07 - 02:08 PM

I agree with Q. However, I still think it is necessary and right for the arranger to state that the song or lyrics or both are traditional.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Trad. Songs: Trad. or Copyrighted?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 03 Aug 07 - 02:09 PM

I think that if you're going to produce and market a recording, you ought to know the stories behind the songs you record. Websites like Mudcat can give you the background of songs, but you have to know how to ask the right questions and how to evaluate the validity of the information you receive.

There's a message about a "traditional song" titled "Hard Rock Miners," and the message says that significant royalties were paid for the song. Right off, that makes me think the song wasn't traditional. A little searching here tells me the more common name for the song is "Mining for Gold", and that it is based on the Bill Lore song titled "Taku Miners." Now, the question is, do royalties go to Lore, to James Gordon, to the Cowboy Junkies, or to whom? If you follow the threads we have on the song, you'll at least know where to start asking questions.

I think it's important to pay royalties when royalties are due - but it's also important NOT to pay royalties to someboy who's just claiming rights to a traditional song. In other words, it pays to do your homework.

-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Origins: Trad. Songs: Trad. or Copyrighted?
From: Peace
Date: 03 Aug 07 - 02:19 PM

WELL said.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Trad. Songs: Trad. or Copyrighted?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 03 Aug 07 - 02:50 PM

I agree, Peace, that details about the song should accompany the recording. The publishers should require proper data.

Unfortunately, when it gets to the manufacturing, labeling and packaging stage, the people involved may know nothing about the music, but a lot about appearance of packaging prepared for sale to an impulse-buying public, about keeping costs down, and marketing.
I have bought a number of cds, attractively presented, but with no information on content except song title and name of singer or group. Even major producers, like EMI, disappoint in this regard.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Trad. Songs: Trad. or Copyrighted?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 03 Aug 07 - 03:46 PM

I think that the "arrangements" of traditional songs for which people might claim credit vary widely in just how original they might be.

Most of them, in my opinion, do not and cannot alter a traditional song sufficiently to constitute an original-enough piece of work to merit royalty payments. But there are a couple of exceptions that I'd like to mention.

I Know You Rider: There's an old Mudcat thread, recently brought back to light, discussing this traditional song, which the great Bob Coltman learned from an old Alan Lomax field recording. I'll admit that I have never done the research to find and listen to the original recording, which featured a young woman singer (perhaps a young woman prisoner ~?~), but from what I've read, I have the impression that she probably sang unaccompanied, or perhaps with minimal and unremarkable backing. Bob came up with a quite striking chord progression, very unusual for a song built upon a standard 12-bar-blues structure (and therefore, presumably, original).

Bob never recorded the song, but played it regularly and widely within the then-very-small US folk community, and the artists who first did record the song with its new arrangement were definitely members of those early audiences of his.

Bob ~ a Mudcatter, by the way, and a character with extremely longstanding credentials dating back to the very earliest days of the US folk revival ~ created a song that gradually became a favorite among guitar-playing "folkies" and, eventually, folk-rockers (most notably, Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead), as well as their successors, contemporary "jam-band" players.

I feel quite sure that this popularity and longevity is undoubtedly due to the striking chord progression that Bob came up with ~ without that quirky chordal accompaniment, both the melody and the lyrics are pretty ordinary, essentially interchangeable with any other bit of basic 12-bar blues.

House of the Rising Sun: I'm sure that some of you, but not all of you, are familiar with the story of how Dave Van Ronk came up with his very original arrangement ~ again, an unconventional and extremely striking chord progression ~ for a fairly well-known old folk ballad previously sung unaccompanied or performed with a basic and unremarkable three-chord (or even two-chord) background.

Dave was "breaking in" the piece by playing it nightly at various Greenwich Village venues when a young Bob Dylan, at the time just starting to record his first album, asked if he could record Dave's arrangement of the song. Dave said no, he intended to record it himself soon ~ but then learned that Bob had already done it. The song does indeed appear on Bob's eponymous first LP ~ with no credit to Dave and no royalties for him, by the way.

The upshot was that Dave had to drop the song from his repertoire when audiences consistently remarked upon his playing "that Bob Dylan song."

A whopping dose of karmic payback occurred a few years later, when Eric Burdon and the Animals recorded the song, once again with the same chord progression, and "House of the Rising Sun" ceased to be perceived as a Bob Dylan song ~ the masses now heard it as that well-known Animals song, and Bob had to drop it just as his mentor Dave had done years earlier.

Sadly enough, the Van Ronk estate has never collected a penny for Dave's best-known and most commerically successful creation.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Trad. Songs: Trad. or Copyrighted?
From: Stewart
Date: 03 Aug 07 - 04:13 PM

Then there are the CDs of Irish traditional session tunes where they will make up a catchy name for a set of tunes, but not tell the names of the individual tunes. Of course, most session players (particularly after a few Guinnesses) can't remember the names of all those tunes anyway. But I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out what tunes are being played in a set when they're not identified.

And some of these tunes do have known, and living composers, so it is necessary to get permission and pay royalties if necessary when you make a CD or publish a tune book.

Cheers, S. in Seattle


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Subject: RE: Origins: Trad. Songs: Trad. or Copyrighted?
From: philgarringer
Date: 04 Aug 07 - 12:21 AM

http://www.counterpunch.org/marsh0721.html


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Subject: RE: Origins: Trad. Songs: Trad. or Copyrighted?
From: Peace
Date: 04 Aug 07 - 12:41 AM

"Anyone who appreciates the law or sausage should never watch either being made."

Bismarck


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Subject: RE: Origins: Trad. Songs: Trad. or Copyrighted?
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 04 Aug 07 - 02:33 AM

Rod Shearman had the same sort of trouble with one of his songs, 'Sail away'.

He wrote this song, music and lyrics, then performed it as a booked artist at various festivals. A few years later, someone called Enya had a hit with 'Orinoco Flow (Sail away)', with a chorus that sounded suspiciously familiar to Rod. He did a bit of investigating and found that the someone called Enya was attending a festival at which he'd sung the song, and was in the venue where he'd sung it, at that time. Lots of people backed up his claim but Enya denied everything, says she never heard Rod sing and that she wrote it all herself.

The upshot of all this is, Rod got not a penny or a credit. It seems the "little man" will always lose out to the bigger name. Hundreds of thousands of people had heard of Enya, but Rod, although famous on the folk scene, was the unknown little man.

He got his own back though... he copied his song 'Sail away' thousands of times and gave copes out everywhere he went! More people are singing his song today than remember the Enya song now!

LTS


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Subject: RE: Origins: Trad. Songs: Trad. or Copyrighted?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 04 Aug 07 - 03:07 AM

Well, not quite always.
George Harrison had to back down to the Chiffons, didn't he?
He's So Fine/My Sweet Lord wasn't exactly Big v Little, more a case of Huge v Huge and a prime example of 'where there's a hit there's a writ'.
What it does show, though, is the importance of registering your work to ensure the collection of rights.
Rod, bless 'im, didn't.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Trad. Songs: Trad. or Copyrighted?
From: GUEST,Crazy Man Michael
Date: 04 Aug 07 - 04:29 PM

"More people are singing his song today than remember the Enya song now!"

You have proof of this?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Trad. Songs: Trad. or Copyrighted?
From: GUEST,docf.tom
Date: 05 Aug 07 - 06:19 AM

On the other hand, you can't even trust the bodies that are there to protect writers. This is England: We produced and released a CD of the 'spource' or 'trad' singer Jeff Wesley last year (Rum and Raspberry). When we wrote to MCPS (mechanical copyright) to get a license for the CD we not only told them the track listing, we also gave them all the writers of songs that weren't 'trad' and also the copyright holders. The only copyright holder who was registered with PRS/MCPS was Friendly Overtures to hold the copyright to Alan Burbidge's songs, one of which (Empty Echoes) was on Jeff's CD. They wrote back saying they had no interest in any of the tracks and therefore would not issue a license. The CD is, of course, released and we have to find another way of trying to make sure the copyright holder gets their dues!

Tom Brown


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Subject: RE: Origins: Trad. Songs: Trad. or Copyrighted?
From: EBarnacle
Date: 05 Aug 07 - 08:22 AM

The House of the Rising Sun issue comes full circle. The Blind Boys of Alabama uses the exact same melody arrangement for their a capella version of Amazing Grace.

Does the arrangement belong to Van Ronk, Dylan, Burden, etc. or is it public domain?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Trad. Songs: Trad. or Copyrighted?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 05 Aug 07 - 03:35 PM

Looking for copyright on "House of the Rising Sun" is a laborious exercise.
Going through the numbered list of just one group- those registered with BMI- there are 80 plus registrations (many jointly held).
BMI work 589017 belongs to Pete Seeger, Ronnie Gilbert, Hays and Halloran.
Others with BMI numbered works include Eric Burden, Woody Guthrie, Jerome Garcia, Hank Williams, Paul Campbell, and Dolly Parton and Mike Post (jointly).

Dylan, Blind Boys and Van Ronk have other affiliations; I have only gone through BMI; that was enough to get boggled-in-mind.

Only a handful included 'Traditional' with their names (none of those listed above).


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Subject: RE: Origins: Trad. Songs: Trad. or Copyrighted?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 05 Aug 07 - 03:39 PM

I should note that not all numbered works are listed for performers; those who have published sheet music, song books or other printed versions are also there.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Trad. Songs: Trad. or Copyrighted?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 05 Aug 07 - 03:56 PM

House of the Rising Sun: ASCAP-
Burdon has three title code numbers listed at ASCAP. Others listed here are Joan Baez, Dylan, Masekela; Timothy Takach for the variation "Amazing Grace." Some 40 separate titles in all.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Trad. Songs: Trad. or Copyrighted?
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 05 Aug 07 - 08:20 PM

When I made my CD I was fine with the one song on it, which was written and performed by the chap who made the CD with me.   I also knew that the tune "Snowy Path" was written by Mark Kelly of Altan. Things got a bit fuzzy with the Shetland reel "Barrowburn Reel," which I found, by googling, and to my surprise, was composed by Addie Harper. Things got even fuzzier with the tune "City of Savannah" which I found had been attributed to one Frank Livingstone, about whom I could discover very little. I registered my recording with MCPS and an excellent fellow called Hans Fried got on my case. I informed him of my findings and left the rest to him. I was satisfied that I'd done all I could to track down any copyright issues.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Trad. Songs: Trad. or Copyrighted?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 05 Aug 07 - 10:44 PM

"City of Savannah" sort of rang a bell. I looked it up and found it attributed to Matt Malloy (known for his work with the Chieftains). On the cd "Stony Steps," 1987. I have it stuck away somewhere.

The "City of Savannah" has been called the first steamship to cross the Atlantic (1819), but this is not strictly true. It was a full-rigged ship and the steam engine was an auxilliary, and was used for only part of the voyage from Savannah to Liverpool.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Trad. Songs: Trad. or Copyrighted?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 05 Aug 07 - 11:00 PM

More digression- A Confederate frigate built during the Civil War also was named the "City of Savannah," and there were others.
There is a hornpipe tune called the "City of Savannah," and this may be the tune used by Malloy.
I found Frank Livingstone listed as composer (link), but I don't know where he comes into it either. This website has some errors in their 'discussion.'
http://www.thesession.org/tunes/display/1607/comments


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Subject: RE: Origins: Trad. Songs: Trad. or Copyrighted?
From: Taconicus
Date: 06 Jan 11 - 08:29 PM

With sources like Mudcat, it's usually possible to find out if a song you want to record is traditional. It's a bit more difficult to find whether a particular arrangement of the lyrics is traditional or copyrighted. The most difficult is finding out whether a particular version of a melody you've heard the song sung to is really traditional or is copyrighted.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Trad. Songs: Trad. or Copyrighted?
From: Crane Driver
Date: 02 Oct 12 - 07:11 AM

I write songs in the (a?) traditional style. The words are original (well, actually all the words are traditional - it's the order of the words that is original!) but the tune often arranges itself round something in my head that fits. That may be original, may be traditional or maybe from someone else's copyright song - and they may well have borrowed the tune from somewhere else and only really written the words. It's not about money, but as said above, credit should be given where due if possible. That seems much easier to do with words than tunes.

Andrew


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