Copyright automatically vests in original music compositions. Originality is key to copyright and the music composed by Maestro Luciano Berio to complete an unfinished symphony, in D major, by Schubert is a fantastic work that offers an interesting opportunity to take a closer look at copyright, copyrightable works and the public domain.
Franz Peter Schubert (1797-1828) was a prolific composer who composed numerous masterpieces including sketches of a symphony, in D major, that would have been his 10th symphony. Schubert died before completing the symphony and left behind the sketches of the unfinished piece, including notes on instrumentation, which are in the public domain and free to use, copy, perform and create derivative works of.
Over a century later, the maestro and composer Luciano Berio (1925-2003) undertook the task of completing Schubert’s unfinished symphony. Berio composed original music that weaves together Schubert’s sketches into a completed work that can be performed and enjoyed by us all. (Berio referred to his work as “the cement-work”). Back to our copyright analysis… Berio’s original composition that pieces together Schubert’s sketches is copyrightable because it is an original music composition. Because Berio’s music is copyrighted, permission is required to use, copy, perform and create derivative work of his work. (…Schubert’s sketches are still fair game).
Berio has been praised for completing Schubert’s composition (titled Rendering) in a style and manner that sounds “Schubertian”. (Listen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-76EhKzEsPM&feature=related)
See also: Conductor David Robertson talks about Schubert & Berio’s Rendering: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NfoOAm7Fvo; a US copyright registration for a sound recording of Rendering; http://www.bachtrack.com/review-mostly-mozart-festival-2012-malkki-berio-rendering-ohlsson-beethoven; http://composers21.com/compdocs/beriol.htm; http://www.classicalarchives.com/composer/3308.html#tvf=tracks&tv=about;iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.
BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.