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Re: MR-Disc: Song copyright
Poster: Mark Schuldenfrei <schuldy@abel.MATH.HARVARD.EDU>
Greetings from Tibor.
If it can't generate a legal response, that leaves moral and ethical
grounds as possible reasons to avoid singing "MS&C" at a bardic circle.
Might it harm AEd the Bard, and/or make him tend to give up composing?
("I was going to buy that Errantry tape, but now that I heard Effen
sing that song from it, I don't have to.") I don't see it.
As I'd mentioned in my first response on the thread, the question posed was
a legal one: morals and ethics, and courtesy, are not the realm of law. (Read
Miss Manners for some interesting thoughts about the value of both, and the
differences between them.)
Reminder: I have read a bit on copyright and intellectual property, but I am
not an expert.
On a separate but related note, what are the copyright obligations
regarding filk songs? Would I owe Don MacLean anything if any of
the following hypothetical situations came to pass?
Overall? The tune is just as copyrighted as the words.
1. I sing, in the privacy of my own home, a song set to the tune
of "American Pie", but with words that are substantially different.
Personal perforance: you owe nothing.
2. I sing it to myself while washing dishes at an event. Some people
may or may not overhear.
3. I sing it at a bardic circle that only allows invited guest within
If it is a performance for something greater than just simple friends, it is a
copyright violation. I'll talk about money in a moment.
4. I sing it at a bardic circle that's open to all.
Definately a copyright violation.
5. I post the words on the Rialto, but don't mention anything about a tune.
Your work is your work.
6. I post the words on the Rialto, and say "to the tune of 'American Pie'"
Difficult question. See below. But no money changes hands.
7. I post some other words on the Rialto, and say "to the tune of
'American Pie'" although they are actually to a totally different
tune of my own invention, and don't fit "American Pie" at all.
Perfect, el Bufon! But not relevant.
There are two issues here. One is the protection of the copyright of the
creator. You can violate the copyright by performing his tune. He can even
(potentially) get a court order to make you stop.
Transfer of funds, in this case, are damages. He can only collect money if
you cause him damages, such as if you earn money from his efforts, or if you
harm his rights in some way.
Counter to that, however, is the issue of parody. There was a famous Supreme
Court decision on parody, where 2Live Crew did a song that made fun of Pretty
Woman, used elements from it, and made a lot of money. The decision was that
it would be almost impossible to parody a song without using distinctive
elements from it. So, if you were parodying Don Maclean, you would be safe.
If you were parodying other people, using Don Maclean's material, it would
probably be a copyright violation, and then the question of damages comes in.
If someone who has professional experience here would like to step in, I'd be
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