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Irish Rover copyrighted?

04 Mar 03 - 06:10 PM (#903543)
Subject: Irish Rover copyrighted?
From: MikeOQuinn

Greetings, all.

I've received varying reports as to the copyright status of the song/chorus to "The Irish Rover." As I know that a lot of you have resources that might present a definitive answer, could anyone point me in the right direction?

Thanks, all!

04 Mar 03 - 10:09 PM (#903675)
Subject: RE: Irish Rover copyrighted?
From: The Pooka

No idea if it's (still) valid -- dunno much about Copyright -- BUT fwiw: my old "The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem Songbook" (Oak Publications, 33 West 60th Street, New York NY) shows the song as "Arranged and Adapted by PAT CLANCY, LIAM CLANCY, TOM CLANCY, TOMMY MAKEM. Copyright 1962, 1963 by TIPARM Music Publishers, Inc. International Copyright Secured. All Rights Reserved." The same group's later "The Irish Songbook", first published 1969 by The Macmillan Company, 866 Third Avenue, New York NY, has it as "Adapted by [the same 4 lads], Copyright 1962, 1969 by Tiparm Music Publishers, Inc." etc.

04 Mar 03 - 10:31 PM (#903685)
Subject: RE: Irish Rover copyrighted?
From: Malcolm Douglas

James N. Healy (The Second Book of Irish Ballads, 1962) printed a text, with tune, from an unspecified source ("words traditional, music [19th century]"), adding that it was maybe more of a Music Hall song than a genuine comic ballad. Edith Fowke found an example in tradition in Bronte, Ontario in 1961; unpublished so far as I know.

No doubt the familiar set recorded by the Clancys is in copyright, but it would be difficult, perhaps, to gauge the extent of any original contributions they may have made to it.

04 Mar 03 - 10:59 PM (#903699)
Subject: RE: Irish Rover copyrighted?
From: michaelr

We had the Clancy/Makem copyright issue come up in a recent thread, which of course I can't find now, but the gist of it was that they copyrighted a lot of traditional songs, but unless you plan to play their exact arrangement, it's nothing to wory about.

I hope some kind elf will find and link to that thread; it has some good information.


04 Mar 03 - 11:30 PM (#903716)
Subject: RE: Irish Rover copyrighted?
From: GUEST,.gargoyle

I've received varying reports

State your reports...and then varying sources....

Perhaps then we will have someting to work with -


What is ....a game of 20 questions?

05 Mar 03 - 05:23 PM (#904249)
Subject: RE: Irish Rover copyrighted?
From: Frankham

Micheal, you can copyright anything you want to including a public domain tune. The trick is to make the copyright stick and this can only be done in the courtroom. If it can be proven that Irish Rover is a traditional tune before the Clancy's got ahold of it, then they would have to take you to court to prove that they wrote it. Not sure that the "lads" would want to waste their time with this. Maybe their publishing company would but chances are not. Check Harry Fox Agency (online) and if there's more than one copyright listed than there's probably nothing to worry about.

Frank Hamilton

05 Mar 03 - 07:47 PM (#904341)
Subject: RE: Irish Rover copyrighted?
From: SeanM

Given the citation from the Clancy songbook, I'd hazard a guess that they would readily admit it's a traditional tune that they adapted and arranged.

With that in mind, what is said above is correct - if it's traditional, all you need to be able to prove is that the song existed before the copyrighted arrangement and that your version is based from tradition instead of being a copy of the newer version. Of course, unless you're doing a carbon copy version of someone else's arrangement, hopefully they would realize the folly of trying to chase you down for it (moreso on something very easily identified as traditional).

All that the "arranged/adapted" really signifies is that the group in question tweaked the tune and lyrics. The extent of the tweaking isn't all that important, but by doing so they have the right to copyright that arrangement, but not take credit for having written it as an original song.


06 Mar 03 - 05:54 AM (#904631)
Subject: RE: Irish Rover copyrighted?
From: GUEST,Philippa

In "The Irish Riover - a Ballad Miscellany) Walton Songs, dublin, a version slightly different from what the Clancys et al. sing is attributed to JM Crofts

06 Mar 03 - 08:26 AM (#904690)
Subject: RE: Irish Rover copyrighted?
From: Malcolm Douglas

That text was posted in the first "related thread" listed above.

06 Mar 03 - 04:54 PM (#905080)
Subject: RE: Irish Rover copyrighted?
From: The Pooka

Two of the original three singing Clancy brothers, Tom and Paddy, are deceased; as is their brother Bobby now too. I wonder whether their old Tiparm Music Publishers Inc. (named from the Clancys' Tipperary & Makem's Armagh) still exists. Whether it does or not, it's inconceivable to me that Liam Clancy and/or Tommy Makem would ever think of legally claiming generic ownership of a song like The Irish Rover. / Hell, Makem *did* write "Four Green Fields"; and how many people sing that one? (And others of his, as well.) Does he sue them?

07 Mar 03 - 05:07 PM (#905492)
Subject: RE: Irish Rover copyrighted?
From: Blackcatter

Hello all,

Remember the difference between covering a song for fun and covering a song for profit. I'd guess that Tommy Makem would sue if the Cheiftains chose to do Four Green Fields without paying Makem his deserved royalty. As for me singing it at the local open mic night - different story.

As for Tiparm Music - I don't believe that it still exists - Both Tommy Maken and the various Brothers Clancy have their own companies that probably control a lot of what Tiparm owned.

As for Tiparm copyrighting public domain songs - remember that there is a difference between owning the rights to a song and owning the rights to a recorded performance. Maybe it can be argued that the Clancy Brothers own the copyright on their arraingment of a tradional song, but I doubt it. Slightly changing the lyrics and a few notes of a song rarely consitutes a new song in the eyes of copyright judges. Plus, arrainging a song has to do with more than the basic tune and words itself - tempo, harmonies, pronnunciation, interpretation, instrumentation, etc. do not change an original song to make it "new." Writing new lyrics to a trad. tune, would however, consitute a copyrightable set of lyrics. The tune would stay public domain.

If the Chieftains did record Four Green Fields and I chose to put their recording in a play or movie, both the Cheiftains and Tommy Makem would have a legal right to royalties (assuming that Tommy Makem still owns the right to 4.G.F.).

pax yall

07 Mar 03 - 11:24 PM (#905572)
Subject: RE: Irish Rover copyrighted?
From: The Pooka

Agreed, certainly. (Though, if The Chieftains chose to do Four Green Fields I'd be a bit surprised. Not exactly their style.)

Tommy Makem's (and The Makem Brothers') website has an extensive listing of lyrics, all of which have the notation "©2002". Presumably this indicates a copyrighting of the *website* as such, not the songs --- many of which are, more-or-less, traditional. Of course specific known authorship is noted in many cases. The lyrics to "Four Green Fields" specify "- Words and music by Tommy Makem" but, oddly, don't specify copyright *other* than that boilerplate "©2002" Various other songs written by Makem also indicate that fact, some with year of authorship & bit of commentary etc.; & some also *do contain an additional copyright notation*; e.g.,

"FREEDOM'S SONS - Words and music by Tommy Makem
Early 1966
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the
Easter Rising of 1916
Copyright 1966"

or -- one of my personal favorites :) --

(air: 'The Limerick Races')
- - Words by Tommy Makem
In Sydney, Nova Scotia
May 11, 1977
Copyright 1977".

Maybe yer man *forgot* to copyright "Four Green Fields". Jeez. Ya never know, do ye? / But anyway, I (and I'm sure others, if any, ignorant of copyright matters:) do appreciate the good info herein, as in other pertinent threads.

-- T. Pooka (©1948 :)

08 Mar 03 - 04:10 PM (#905630)
Subject: RE: Irish Rover copyrighted?
From: Suffet

Frank Hamilton is right. But keep in mind that in the USA the Copyright Office does not issue copyrights. What it does is register copyright claims, and the fact is anyone can claim anything. Being able to defend that claim is the real trick!

--- Steve