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3/1 quote on value of public domain-Burns

01 Mar 00 - 12:02 PM (#187537)
Subject: 3/1 quote on value of public domain
From: GUEST,T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird)

"These old Scottish airs are so nobly sentimental, that when one would compose to them, to 'south the tune,' as our Scotch phrase is, over and over, is the readiest way to catch the inspiration, and raise the bard into that glorious enghusiasm so strongly characteristic of our old Scotch poetry."

(Robert Burns's "Commonplace Book", quoted in The Complete Works of Robert Burns, Ed. Alexander Smith, Crowell, New York, 1887, p. 298.)

How many of Burns's songs would we NOT have if Burns's publishers (Thompson and Johnson) had had to clear the copyright for EVERY air ?

A report on the NINCH's (National Initiative for a Networked Cultural Heritage) January 11, 2000 Town Meeting on the Public Domain can be found here

Diane Zorich's talk on the public domain, presented at the meeting, is linked here. Here comments on the value of the public domain are here though in some ways I think Robbie Burns says it better.

T.


04 Mar 00 - 11:26 AM (#189330)
Subject: RE: 3/1 quote on value of public domain
From: GUEST,Okiemockbird

As is well known, Burns also made use of other authors' words as well as using others' tunes.

The following occurs in the Herd collection of 1776 (2,206):

Some will court and compliment,
and make a great ado,
some will make of their goodman
and sae will I of you.

John, come kiss me now, now, now,
O John come kiss me now,
John come kiss me by and by
and make nae mair ado.


Burns copied and transformed it to:

O some will court and compliment
and ither some will kiss and daut
but I will mak o' my gudeman
my ain gudeman--it it nae faut

O John, come kiss me now, now, now
O John, my luve, come kiss me now
O John come kiss me by and by
For weel ye ken the way to woo.


O some will court and compliment,
and ither some will prie their mou',
and some will hause in ither's arms,
and that's the way I like to do.

So don't believe those who try to assert that writers never build on other writers' "expression", only on their "ideas". (These are technical terms from copyright jurisprudence). As the example above shows, this would be wrong even if the line between "idea" and "expression" were easy to draw.

T.