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.
Music and other published works that are in the Public Domain are free to use; since, they are not under copyright protection and therefore do not require any permissions from the author (or former copyright owner) to be used. Works that are in the public domain are free for the taking, sampling, using, copying, reproducing, recording and distributing.
Typically, works in the Public Domain are very old works. For example, ancient published texts like the “Bhagavad Gita” (a pre-Christian, Sanskrit text) are in the public domain…. as well as “newer-old-works” like the Shaker song “Simple Gifts” (music and lyrics written in the United States in the mid 1800’s). The original text, music and lyrics of the works are in the public domain. However, newer translations or compositions based on the original works… as well as sound recordings and arrangement elements of these newer versions are likely covered by copyright protection…. and NOT in the public domain.
What works are in the public domain? Any work or musical score that was published in the United States before 1923 is in the public domain, due to expiration of copyright. Newer works can also be dedicated to the public domain and if a work failed to meet the requirements for copyright protection it will also be in the public domain. Generally, a case by case analysis should to be done on works published in 1923 or later to determine if they are in the public domain because, it’s not always obvious. [Would you have guessed that the Happy Birthday Song is still covered by copyright protection… and not in the public domain?]
Keep in mind that copyright duration and the timeline for works entering the public domain vary country by country.
BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.
See also: http://www.copyright.gov, http://copyright.cornell.edu/resources/publicdomain.cfm, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/; @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.
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