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Question Fun Copyright Questions 

Forum: Eldred v. Reno Appeal
Date: May 01, 00:26
From: wseltzer

We're looking for colorful facts to add to the plaintiffs' brief:

  • What are some older works that would have been under copyright "forever" if an earlier CTEA had extended terms shortly after their publication?
  • What works might never have been created if their authors couldn't draw from a rich public domain?

  • Can we find out how much revenue from films American producers get from films copyrighted in 1923-33?
    book publishers?

  • How many publishers were there in America in 1790?
  • What percentage of the population was that?

Any answers or suggestions as to how to track down answers will be helpful. Feel free to add your own questions to the list!


Feedback Importance of public domain

Date: May 01, 09:49
From: phillit

The Beggar's Opera (1720s) with its 69 melodies, most or all of which were not written by John Gay or by his musical arranger Pepusch, would probably have cost too much in clearance fees to be worth creating today.

If The Beggar's Opera had never existed, neither would the Brecht/Weill Die Dreigroschenoper, which draws very heavily on the script, and even copies one of the airs: An Old Woman Cloak'd in Grey was used with the words "In all the employments of life" in The Beggar's Opera. In Die Dreigroschenoper Weill used it for "Das Morgenlied Peachums".

An on-line work that would probably not exist without the public domain is the Digital Tradition, an anthology of mostly public-domain song-lyrics which is available for free by download at The Mudcat Café.

Feedback Robert Burns and Thomas Moore

Date: May 01, 11:44
From: phillit

The following occurs in the Herd collection of 1776 (2,206):

Some will court and compliment,
and make a great ado,
some will make of their goodman
and sae will I of you.

John, come kiss me now, now, now,
O John come kiss me now,
John come kiss me by and by
and make nae mair ado.

Robert Burns copied and transformed it to:

O some will court and compliment
and ither some will kiss and daut
but I will mak o' my gudeman
my ain gudeman--it it nae faut

O John, come kiss me now, now, now
O John, my luve, come kiss me now
O John come kiss me by and by
For weel ye ken the way to woo.

O some will court and compliment,
and ither some will prie their mou',
and some will hause in ither's arms,
and that's the way I like to do.

A number of examples of this kind are known, in which Burns took a piece of an existing song-lyric -- a refrain, or a few lines -- and created a new lyric in which the original fragment was embedded.

Besides this, Burns is not known to have written many airs, if any at all. It is not certain whether large collections such as The Scots Musical Museum to which Burns contributed heavily, and which sets song-lyrics to many airs which were in circulation at the time, would be considered economical under today's laws. The same doubt is raised in the case of Thomas Moore's Irish Melodies.

Feedback "Sacred Harp" revisions

Date: May 05, 11:55
From: phillit

One copyright infringement case, Cooper v. James, 213 F. 871 (N. D. Georgia, 1914), involved competing editions of the shape-note hymnbook known as The Sacred Harp: William M. Cooper's The Sacred Harp, Revised and Improved, 1902), and Joseph James's, The Original Sacred Harp, 1911.

I think it likely that if J. L. White, the son of B. F. White who was the compiler of the 1869 edition of The Sacred Harp, had retained copyright in the 1869 edition, he would not have licensed these competing editions. He was, at the same time, attempting to market the Fifth Edition of the Sacred Harp, 1910; and the Fourth Edition of the Sacred Harp, with Supplement, 1911.

See Gavin James Campbell, "'Old Can Be Used Instead of New:' Shape-Note Singing and the Crisis of Modernity in the New South, 1880-1920", Journal of American Folklore 110(436),169-188(1997).

Tim Phillips []

Feedback The Southern Harmony (1854)

Re: Feedback "Sacred Harp" revisions (phillit)
Date: Jun 06, 14:17
From: guest

In compiling his Southern Harmony and Musical Companion (1854) William Walker relied in part on a number of earlier tune-books, in order that older users would be able to find their favorites. He states in the preface: "Those that are partial to ancient music, will find here some good old acquaintences which will cause them to remember with pleasure the scenes of life that are past and gone; while my youthful companions, who are more fond of modern music, I hope will find a sufficient number of new tunes to satisfy them."

Walker also engaged in an early version of folk-song collecting: "I have composed the parts to a great many good airs, (which I could not find in any publication, nor in manuscript,) and assigned my name as the author. I have also composed several tunes wholly, and inserted them in this work, which also bear my name."

One of these newly composed tunes, however, was composed by means of creative copying. The melody of Walker's French Broad River (written in 1831. The melody is in the middle line of music in the facsimile page) seems to be an adaptation (perhaps unconscious) of the melody Kedron, attributed to Elkanah Kelsey Dare (d. 1826. Here, too, the melody line is the middle line of music).

Ok fun idea's, yet profound!

Date: May 06, 00:07
From: Alc0

I'm note sure exactly where you'll find a good example but you could look at woody guthrie... Once when someone complained to him that another singer had stolen has song- gutherie replied, "yeah he took it from me, but I take 'em from everybody!"

also the whole opening of les miserables (v hugo) in which a poor man steals from a preist and when he is caught and brought back by the police, the preist not only swears he has given him the items, but hands him silver candlesticks and says "you forgot these"... is origionaly an ancient japanese zen parrable

" good artist borrow each others idea's -- great artists steal them outright" William Faulkner

Ok "Crime in a poet, sirs, to steal a thought "

Re: Ok fun idea's, yet profound! (Alc0)
Date: May 06, 16:31
From: phillit

Crime in a Poet, Sirs, to steal a Thought ?
No, that 'tis not; if it be good for aught:
'Tis lawful Theft; 'tis laudable to boot;
'tis want of Genius if he does not do't:
The fool admires--the Man of Sense alone
Lights on a Happy Thought--and Makes it all his own.

--John Byrom, Miscellaneous Poems, 1, 133(1773), quoted in George J. Buelow, "The Case for Handel's Borrowings: The Judgement of Three Centuries", in Stanley Sadie and Anthony Hicks, Eds., Handel Tercentenary Collection, Macmillan Press, Houndmills, 1987.

Tim Phillips

Feedback G. F. Handel

Date: May 11, 13:22
From: phillit

G. F. Handel (1685-1759) often used other composers' musical ideas in his work. Some of these uses would probably have been actionable copying under our present laws.

One example: For the third movement of the overture to Theodora, Handel drew on a harpsichord piece by Gottlieb Muffat (1690-1770). Passages of both works are compared at this web site, which also has references and links which can lead to more information about musical borrowing.

Without the ability to copy Muffat's work, Handel might still have written Theodora, but it wouldn't be the same Theodora that we know.

Tim Phillips

Feedback Bob Dylan ?

Re: Feedback G. F. Handel (phillit)
Date: May 11, 14:42
From: phillit

According to this source, "Bob Dylan is an unabashed borrower from the tradition, and rarely credits his sources". It lists several Dylan songs as borrowings, for example:

"Bob Dylan's Dream" is said to be derived from "Lady Franklin's Lament"
"Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" is said to derived from "Lord Randall"
"Masters of War" is said to be derived from "Nottamun Town"

However, I haven't yet independently checked these relationships. (Perhaps there is someone on-list who has ?)

Tim Phillips

None Dylan? Dylan.

Re: Feedback Bob Dylan ? (phillit)
Date: May 13, 22:54
From: phillit

My conclusions, after listening to two Dylan Songs:

The melody to "Masters of War" is clearly a version of the folk melody "Nottamun Town".

The melody to "Girl from the North Country" shows affinities to the melody "Scarborogh Fair" used by Martin Carthy/Simon & Garfunkle. The words of the first stanza of "Girl from the North Country" are clearly derived from the first stanza of the version of "Scarborough Fair" that Simon & Garfunkle recorded.

Tim Phillips

Feedback performances that never were

Date: May 11, 14:01
From: phillit

This London Times article (also linked in another thread) includes the following examples of the use of copyright to impede or suppress performance:

"...[T]he Samuel Beckett estate...exercises ruthless control over Beckett stagings, and last year hilariously banned an Edinburgh Fringe production of Waiting for Godot because the tramps were played by women. But dishonourable mention should also be made of the Kurt Weill Foundation, which prevented that consummate cabaret singer Ute Lemper from transposing some Weill songs to a pitch that suited her voice; and the Balanchine Trust, which demanded casting approval when the Royal Ballet wanted to perform a George Balanchine ballet. Not surprisingly, the production never happened. " (9th paragraph).

Another case of songs that were deleted from a concert program because the performers thought that the Robert Louis Stevenson estate was charging too much for permission to reprint some of Stevenson's poems in the concert program, is described in a series of letters published in the London Times in 1908, which can be found as an appendix to this post to the cni-copyright forum.

Tim Phillips []

News Re: benefits of the public domain and limited copyright terms?

Date: May 21, 14:26
From: guest


On Fri, 5 May 2000, Jon Noring <> wrote:

> On another mailing list a very pointed question was asked, the gist of
> the question being "why is the Public Domain necessary -- what's wrong
> with perpetual copyright terms"

Because it would likely have stopped Shakespeare, Walt Disney, Andrew Lloyd Weber, and countless other artists from creating their most popular works:

   Shakespeare's _Hamlet_ [1601] would've infringed Saxo Grammaticus'
     _History of Prince Amleth_ [1185] ; his _Romeo and Juliet_ [1591]
     was taken from Arthur Brooke's poem _Romeus and Juliet_ [1562] ;
     most of his historical plays would have infringed R. Holingshead's
     _Chronicles of England_ [1573] ; etc.

   Andre Lloyd Webber's _Phantom of the Opera_ [1986] would have
     infringed Gaston Leroux's novel [1910] of the same name.

   Most of Walt Disney's animated films were based on public-domain
     works published in the 1800's.  _Show White_, _Cinderella_,
     _Pinnochio_, _Jungle Book_ (released exactly one year after
     Kipling's copyrights expired), _Alice in Wonderland_, etc. etc.

Lance Purple <>

Feedback Holinshed and Shakespeare

Date: May 27, 22:12
From: phillit

Shakespeare's creative copying is shown clearly by the following example.

From Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland

[Anno 2 Henry V, 1414.] Henrie Chichelie archbishop of Canturburie made a pithie oration...He did much inveie against the surmised and false fained law Salike, which the Frenchmen alledge ever against the kings of England in barre of their just title to the crown of France. The verie words of that supposed law are these, "In terram Salicam mulieres ne succedant," that is to saie, "Into the Salike land let not women succeed." Which the French glossers expound to be the realme of France, and that this law was made by king Pharamond; whereas yet their owne authors affirme, that the land Salike is in Germanie, betweene the rivers of Elbe and Sala; and that when Charles the Great had overcome the Saxons he placed there certeine Frenchmen, which having in disdeine the dishonest maners of the German women, made a law, that the femailes should not succeed to any inheritance within that land, which at this daie is called Meisen, so that if this be true, this law was not made for the realme of France, nor the Frenchmen possessed the land Salike, till foure hundred and one and twentie yeares after the death of Pharamond, the supposed maker of this Salike law, for this Pharamond deceassed in the yeare 426, and Charles the Great subdued the Saxons, and placed the Frenchmen in those parts beyond the river of Sala in the yeare 805.

Moreover, it appeareth by their owne writers, that king Pepine, which deposed Childerike, claimed the crowne of France, as heire generall, for that he was descended of Blithild daughter to king Clothair the first. Hugh Capet also, who usurped the crowne upon Charles duke of Loraine, the sole heire male of the line and stocke of Charles the great, to make his title seeme true, and appeare good, though indeed it was starke naught, conveied himselfe as heire to the ladie Lingard, daughter to king Charlemaine, sonne to Lewes the emperor, that was son to Charles the great. King Lewes also the tenth otherwise called saint Lewes, being verie heire to the said usurper Hugh Capet, could never be satisfied in his conscience how he might justlie keepe and possesse the crowne of France, till he was persuaded and fullie instructed, that queene Isabell his grandmother was lineallie descended of the ladie Ermengard daughter and heire to the above named Charles duke of Loraine, by the which marriage, the bloud and line of Charles the Great was againe united and restored to the crowne & scepter of France, so that more cleere than the sunne it openlie appeareth, that the title of king Pepin, the claime of Hugh Capet, the posession of Lewes, yea, and the French kings to this daie, are derived and conveyed from the heire female, though they would under the color of such a fained law, barre the kings and princes of this realme of England of their right and lawfull inheritance.

  From Shakespeare's Henry V, Act I, Scene 2:

Canterbury....        -- There is no bar
To make against your highness' claim to France
But this, which they produce from Pharamond,--
In terram Salicam mulieres ne succedant,
No woman shall succeed in Salique land:

Which Salique land the French unjustly gloze
To be the realm of France, and Pharamond
The founder of this law and female bar.
Yet their own authors faithfully affirm
That the land Salique is in Germany,
Between the floods of Sala and of Elbe;
Where Charles the Great, having subdued the Saxons
There left behind and settled certain French;
Who, holding in disdain the German women
For some dishonest manners of their life
Established then this law--to wit, no female
Should be inheritrix in Salique land:
Which Salique, as I said, 'twixt Elbe and Sala,
Is at this day in Germany called Meisen.
Then doth it well appear, the Salique law
was not devised for the realm of France:
Nor did the French possess the Salique land
Until four hundered one-and-twenty years
After defunction of King Pharamond,
Idly supposed the founder of this law.
Who died within the year of our redemption
Four hundred twenty-six; and Charles the Great
Subdued the Saxons, and did seat the French
Beyond the river Sala, in the year
Eight hundred five. Besides, their writers say,
King Pepin, which deposed Childerick,
Did, as heir general, being descended
Of Blithild, which was daughter to King Clothair,
Make claim and title to the crown of France.
Hugh Capet also, who usurped the crown
Of Charles the Duke of Lorraine, sole heir male
Of the true line and stock of Charles the Great,
To fine his title with some show of truth,
Though, in pure truth, it was corrupt and naught,--
Conveyed himself as hir to the Lady Lingard,
Daughter to Charlemain, who was the son
To Lewis the Emperor, and Lewis the son
Of Charles the Great. Also King Lewis the Tenth,
Who was sole heir to the usurper Capet,
Could not keep quiet in his conscience
Wearing the crown of France, till satisfied
That fair Queen Isabel, his grandmother,
Was lineal of the Lady Ermengard,
Daughter to Charles the foresaid Duke of Lorraine.
By which marriage the line of Charles the Great
Was re-united to the Crown of France.
So that, as clear as is the summer's sun,
King Pepin's title, and Hugh Capet's claim
King Lewis his satisfaction, all appear
To hold in right and title of the female:
So do the kings of France unto this day.
Howbeit they would hold up this Salique law
To bar your highness claiming from the female;
And rather choose to hide them in a net
Than amply to imbar their crooked titles
Usurped from you and your progenitors.

Tim Phillips

Feedback Mona Lisa art

Date: May 31, 09:30
From: guest

More of these can be found at

None dead artists need no incentive

Date: Jun 01, 21:07
From: brianhulse

The copyright term extension is evidence of the shift in our culture from valuing expression by individual artists to corporate entertainment products.

The idea that artists own their work exclusively is a silly one. Anyone who has ever studied writing or painting or composition knows that building a personal voice takes years of studying, assimilating, and referencing the work of others.

Certainly, it benefits society to grant limited control over an artist's work in order to generate economic incentive. But dead artists have no need for incentive. They do not benefit from an additional 20 years of copyright protection.

Rather, these increased limits create a burden on living artists. Less material becomes available for commentary in work, especially the work of the immediately preceding generation (whose work tends to be most relevant to one's time). Collaboration becomes more difficult. A world of exchanged ideas and interaction becomes one of product, ownership, and restriction.

Commentary, or quotation, has a long and illustrious history in art. I can think of numerous instances where composers make reference to other composers in their music. Berg quotes Wagner, Shostakovich quotes Rossini. Numerous composers quote Bach. The entire tradition of Mass setting in the Renaissance was based on quotation of other material. The use of this material is done not to create economic advantage or to steal property. There is a whole different paradigm at work, one where artists see there work as part of a constellation of human thought and progress.

Corporate empires have the resources to chase down copyright permissions and pay fees every time they use another's material. But what of the lone artist? Franz Schubert spent his life composing songs to texts by poets. These songs comprise a priceless body of work. What would have been gained by forcing Schubert, an indigent composer, to slog through the extended copyright terms? What might have been lost? Imagine what it is like to be a composer and be forced to only consider antiquated works for use in song cycles or operas. Unless one is a big corporation or a famous artist with money, publishing companies have no incentive to grant permission for use of material. Extending copyright further precludes young or up-and-coming artists from engaging the work of recent generations.

In compromising the public domain, society loses for the benefit of a very few companies who own the product of dead artists. This space is too valuable to sell out to such a narrow interest.

Brian Hulse Ph.D. Music, '99 Harvard

Agree C. V. Stanford agrees with you about Schubert

Re: dead artists need no incentive (brianhulse)
Date: Jun 02, 11:07
From: guest

The following is from a letter by Sir Charles V. Stanford (1852-1924) to The Times (London), Tuesday, March 3rd, 1908, page 4, column e:


Sir,-In Germany, a country keenly alive to all its commercial opportunities, a composer is at liberty so set, publish with music, and print in books of words the poems of any writer, in or out of copy- right. German publishers very well know that a good musical setting of a poem sells the book containing it. If such [copyright licensing] conditions as Messrs. Chatto and Windus require had been enforced there, we should not now have 800 songs of Schubert nor the priceless settings of Heine's lyrics by his con- temporary Schumann, settings which have made Heine a household word in countries where he would other- wise have remained an unappreciated foreign name.

This was part of a correspondence about a dispute between some concert promoters and Chatto and Windus, the administrators of Robert L. Stevenson's copyrights. The entire correspondence was posted to the cni-copyright forum over a year ago, and can be found at:

Can anyone verify the statement about German copyright law at the time, that composers needed no permission to set poems ?

Agree more info on creative copying in music

Re: dead artists need no incentive (brianhulse)
Date: Jun 02, 20:28
From: phillit

Brian Hulse wrote:

Commentary, or quotation, has a long and illustrious history in art. I can think of numerous instances where composers make reference to other composers in their music. Berg quotes Wagner, Shostakovich quotes Rossini. Numerous composers quote Bach. The entire tradition of Mass setting in the Renaissance was based on quotation of other material. The use of this material is done not to create economic advantage or to steal property. There is a whole different paradigm at work, one where artists see there work as part of a constellation of human thought and progress.
A good introduction to the field of "musical borrowing", to which Mr. Hulse refers, can be found in J. Peter Burkholder, "The Uses of Existing Music: Musical Borrowing as a Field", Notes, Volume 50, Number 3, March 1994, pp. 851-870. Burkholder begins his paper with a summary of his studies of Charles Ives. He found that his familiarity with the cantus firmus technique and other borrowing techniques of the renaissance helped him see aspects of Ives's music that other scholars had missed; that Ives was not a bizarre anomalous composer but an exceptional user of widely used borrowing techniques; and that the concept of "musical quotation" was not adequate to describe all the borrowing techniques that Ives used.

An on-line bibliography of the field can be found at

Idea Melancholy Elephants

Date: Jun 02, 02:32
From: guest

If you haven't read it, do. It adds a number of excellent arguments against long copyrights. "Melancholy Elephants" by Spider Robinson can be found at

For example: with today's computer tech, it should be trivial for me to write almost every musical combination by sheer brute force-- the infinite monkey way. If I copyright each one of those, sooner or later I'll own every new melody in the world.

Question What version did Jessica Litman quote ?

Re: Idea Melancholy Elephants (guest)
Date: Jun 02, 09:39
From: guest

As a caption to her paper, "The Public Domain", 39 Emory Law Journal 965, Jessica Litman quotes the following from Spider Robinson's Melancholy Elephants:

"Artists have been deluding themselves, for centuries, with the notion that they create. In fact they do nothing of the sort".

This passage doesn't seem to be in the version linked above. Is there more than one version ?

Feedback Charles Ives

Date: Jun 10, 11:50
From: phillit

American composer Charles Ives (1874-1954) uses borrowed
melodies to underscore the lyrics of his song “The Things our
Fathers Loved (and the greatest of these was Liberty)” , 114
Songs (1922) #43, as the following table shows:

LYRICS                                  MELODY ADAPTED FROM
------                                  -------------------

“I think there must be a place          “My Old Kentucky Home”
in the soul all made of tunes
of long ago”

“I hear the organ on the main           “On the Banks of the Wabash”
street corner”

“Aunt Sarah singing gospels”            Nettleton (“Come thou
                                        fount of every blessing”)

“The village cornet band                “The Battle Cry of
playing in the square.  The              Freedom
town’s red, white, and blue”

The song’s remaining  words are set to a melody derived from
“In the Sweet bye and bye”.    (Source:   J. Peter Burkholder,
All Made of Tunes:  Charles Ives and the Uses of Musical
Borrowing, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1995, pages 306-
311.)   The result is a melody that is literally “All made of
tunes”, like the “place in the soul” that the words speak of.

Charles Ives was fairly well-off, and would probably have been
able to afford clearance fees even if  these melodies had been
under copyright at the time he wrote, assuming the
rightsholders were willing to let their copyrights be used in
a song written in Ives’s style.  But the purpose of having a
copyright system at all is so that intellectual creation
(including derivatives) should not be the exclusive province
of the rich.

Tim Phillips

Ok london times articles--might be useful or inspirational

Date: May 05, 17:34
From: phillit

Here are some London Times articles that may be of interest:
The travails of fair use and fair dealing:
(The conclusion I draw from this article:  Since fair use is 
such a vague concept, the only saftey for follow-on artists
 is in copyright expiration.)

The European extension:
("The rationale [for the European extension] was almost entirely bogus.")

The incredible shrinking public domain: 
("Soon we'll need permission to quote Chaucer.")

The U.S. extension: 
(Good for Hollywood, bad for the rest of us.)

Suppression of an opera by the Presley organization: 
(The choreographer found a work-around:  he changed his opera
 into an opera about an Elvis impersonator.)
Tim Phillips

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