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   Author  Topic: Partial copyright of music  (Read 2305 times)
mactheknife
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Posts: 110
Re: Partial copyright of music
« Reply #5 on: Jan 13th, 2006, 5:19pm »
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It is funny you should ask this question because this was one of my peeves at the CO while I was working there.  The presumption at the CO (in examining claims anyways) is: "music" was anything consisting of melody, harmony, and/or rhythm.  The vocal melody was always considered to be the primary part of the music, and if the instrumental part is anything different, it's an "arrangement."  This would imply that the instrumental part is a derivative of the melody, rather than the other way around, as Isaac queried.  The CO presumed that any song (lyrics, melody, and harmony/instrumental) was a "joint work."
 
The problem is, a joint work implies that the song is created in a certain way.  In some cases, especially hip-hop/R&B type material, this isn't the way the song is created.  Creation of the instrumental "track" or "beats" created may or may not have anything to do with creation of the lyrics and/or melody.  In such cases, I believe what you're hearing are two works superimposed on each other.  I argued this to no end at the C.O., and my small victory is now, the C.O. allows separate registrations to be made for lyrics and music in a rap "song".  On the other end of the spectrum, a quite famous hip-hop producer (his publisher, to be more specific) sent in applications to register just his background tracks to published, commercially exploited songs.  My first inclination was to grant the registration, but my higher-ups made me write back to the publisher to question whether in fact they owned the instrumental tracks separately.
 
As to registration, you can apply to register the lyrics and vocal melody.  The C.O. won't stop you from doing that; what it will presume is that the instrumental music is an "arrangement" of the melody.  I have no idea whatsoever if, should this come down to litigation, a court would treat the instrumental music as a joint part of the music, arrangement, or what-not.  That would most likely depend on how the instrumental music was actually created in relation to the melody, I would think.
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Isaac
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Re: Partial copyright of music
« Reply #6 on: Jan 14th, 2006, 7:25am »
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It sounds to me as if the Copyright Office has some fixed model in mind of how music is created.
Clearly for people who compose using their instruments, the vocal melody would not be the arrangement or base for the vocals.  A presumption might be fairly harmless as long as the copyright holder has some ability to overcome the presumption at the office or when enforcing the copyright.
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Isaac
Andrea W
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Re: Partial copyright of music
« Reply #7 on: Jan 15th, 2006, 6:46pm »
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Thanks everyone for all the advice. It looks in the end like we were actually able to work it out together. I wrote her a letter suggesting how we go about dealing with the old songs and she ended up agreeing with my suggestions. Looks like we're both walking away from it feeling alright.  
 
What a relief!
 
Thanks for your help. I've learned a lot.
 
Andrea
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