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Re: Belt & Chain - Lyrics & Folk Process

Poster: Suzanne Metzler <0002152178@mcimail.com>

On Mon, 16 Jun 1997, Will Ritchie wrote:
> Both of these were entirely period practices, as were plagiarism and
> trademark counterfeiting.  Still, I think the New Middle Ages should set
> them aside, just as we have done with bear-baiting and religious
> persecution.  As is evidenced by the Orders of the Pelican and Laurel, our
> officers and artisans merit the same respect given to period aristocracy. 

On MOnday June 16 1997 Eogan wrote:

>>Plagerism and counterfitting aside, why should we put aside the practice
>>of composing new words to an existing tune (commonly known as "filking")?
>>You yourself mentioned it was done in period. 
>> The words you put to an existing tune
>>do not necessarily have to parody that song, "Weird AL" style.  Does
>>anyone else find this practice offinsive?  I think it helps a lot of
>>people get into songwriting who have great lyrics in mind, but know
>>nothing about composing music.

Email has been down, so I did not get a chance to respond to this earlier:

I notice you said putting plagarism and counterfeiting aside but you
did not mention Copyright Infringement (which is a seperate issue from
either of the above.)  The composer owns rights to their musical composition
for the length of their life plus 50 years if created after Jan. 1,.
1978.  (note also the lyricist and performers rights are seperate).
 You might say, "well I have a fair use defense:  parody." First this
is only a defense if it meets the qualifications of a parody and 
please note that fair use is a DEFENSE against what would otherwise be copyright 
infringement.  Therefore, if your defense fails (to be a defense you will have to 
have been sued) you are a copyright infringer and subject to steep
monetary penalties. Filking, where it is not a parody,
does not have the defense of fair use.

The better practice (which incidentally
Weird Al and others follow even thought they might have the right to
the defense of parody) is to get PERMISSION (i.e. a licenese) from the songwriter.  

For songs composed after Jan. 1 , 1978 - get permission.
For songs composed from 1922 to 1978 there are a number of factors to consider and if you are
concerned, I will research those rights if I am sent a private email.
For songs that were composed pre-1922, the melodies are in the public domain and
anyone can use them for filking purposes.

Now the real world test:  is this likely to affect us really.  These issues are less important 
for people performing only at SCA events
or gatherings (although if it is a SCA composer you could tick them
off).  When this issue is important to consider is if the
songwriter is "publishing" (in its broadest sense which includes posting
emails or printing sheet music with words) the music with words for sale or otherwise.
Finally in order for it to be a real issue -- the composer has to find
out and sue you.  It would probably not be worth their time and money
to do this unless you are making a commercial use of their musical
composition (i.e. selling a tape or selling the words with music in
sheet music form).  

In service,

Tehair MacDiarmada/Sue Metzler
mundanely a Copyright Attorney 

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