Information About Copyright
In the 1990s I was a sheet music publisher, under the name
of Hovea Music Press, so I had to learn a lot about copyright. Also, I
successfully sued the biggest sheet music publisher in Australia, and
two others, over a violation of my copyright, with minimal legal
assistance (I'll put something about that in my blogs). PLEASE NOTE:
HMP was inactive for many years but was revived in 2015. My knowledge
of Australian copyright law
is out of date.
However, I will venture some thoughts about copyright. Please
don't take any of this as legal advice—this is
just to warm you
up so can ask more intelligent questions when you talk to your
specialist copyright lawyer or agent, which you really ought to do if
you are a creator or want to use someone else's work. Double-check
everything with them.
Firstly, it's a vastly complicated set of laws and is
different in every country. China notoriously refused to join the
international community in acknowledging intellectual property rights,
and I believe that is partly a cultural issue. The whole idea that you
can have rights to creative works is a Western notion of fairly recent
How a Work is Copyrighted
One persistent false belief about copyright is that you need
to somehow 'copyright' a work. This probably stems from pre-copyright
legistlation times in the early twentieth century. Essentially, in
Australia at least, and it would be similar in many other countries,
copyright exists in an original work from the moment it is created. We
use the international copyright symbol (c) or, more properly, a circle
with a 'c'
inside it, to indicate who owns the copyright or to warn thieves to
leave it alone. But the symbol does not actually give you protection,
it's just means you are asserting that you own the rights.
If someone reproduces your work without your permission you then have
to sue them, if you want redress. At that point you will need your
rough drafts and any other evidence you can find which shows that you
were the original creator, and on what dates. So, keep the evidence and
make sure you date it. If you're worried, find some way of getting it
dated for you, at the time of creation, because it's all about
persuading a judge or magistrate to believe your story over the other
Ideas Are Not Copyright
It's important to note that copyright exists only in the WAY your ideas
are expressed, not the ideas themselves.
So if you find an article that essentially says the same things as your
own but uses different words, it will be a matter for the judge
or magistrate to decide if it really violates your rights. This will
depend on how closely it follows your own article.
Many Copyrights in the Same Work
Obviously, an opera has many parts that may be subject to copyright,
but even less complex works may be subdivided. For example, a song may
have separate rights in the musical score, any arrangement of the score
(including easy educational versions), the audio recording, the video,
and the lyrics. Any or all of these may be licenced for others to
reproduce. Larger works, such as operas and other stage shows, have
special rights which are negotiated and licenced separately.
As I said above, my knowledge of this complex legislation is out of
date, but I know that in the 1990s after an authorised recording of
original music was published (i.e. made available to the public,
whether for free or for a price), anyone else could make their own
recording and publish it. They certainly had to pay royalties, but did
not need to get the permission of the creator or notify them in
advance. The royalty percentage was fixed in legislation.
So there was no ability to negotiate for a higher percentage, you had
no say in how the recording was made, and you had no power of veto over
a bad recording. Ask me how I know this...
Generally speaking, recording musicians don't get royalties or
commission on their recording. They're usually paid a flat fee, which
always seemed a bit unfair to me, but there it is.
Photocopies of Music for Teaching, and
Primary schools and high schools in Australia pay a licence fee so they
can make photocopies of musical scores. They have to keep very good
records and, like anyone else, can suffer massive fines if they slip-up.
Private music teachers and private music studios can't get these
licences so they always have to use the published editions.
Essentially, photocopies can't be used in private studios and if you're
learning duets or instrumental or vocal works with accompaniment, both
players must have a book. It's not worth getting fined several thousand
dollars for the sake of a $20 music book.
Many people cite the 'Fair Use' provisions of the copyright act when
they talk about sheet music in an educational setting. There is some
ability to photocopy a small portion of a work (music or textbooks) for
study purposes, but this explicitly does not apply to learning to play
or sing a musical work. I guess this means you could only photocopy a
small portion as 'fair use' if you were making a musicological analyis
or study of a work. Students learning to play or sing can't use
photocopies (but see below).
Eisteddfodau and Page Turning
Music festivals and competitions, such as eisteddfods, will sometimes
allow competitors to use photocopies under the strict condition that
the copies are handed over to the organising committee after the
performance, to be destroyed. Don't assume this, check with them first.
Many years ago, when new copyright laws were being rigorously enforced
with fines of many thousands of dollars, I spoke to a music shopkeeper
about photocopying a page here and there to help with page turning.
There was probably no mention of it in the Copyright Act, but the
shopkeeper, who was a staunch supporter of copyright, said he would be
perfectly happy for some pages to be photocopied if it enabled better page turns, as long as they were used
with a published edition. I used to sticky-tape them to the book so I
could have three or four pages open on the piano.
My Copyright Works
I hold and reserve copyright in all original text, graphics,
photographs, musical scores, audio recordings and video recordings on
this site. While most of it is original, there are some items of which
I am not the copyright holder, and these are acknowledged on those
pages. For example, some articles are by myself but others may be by
On November 15, 2015 I used a Creative Commons
copyright licence for a
major article; this was the first time I used a CC licence.
Copyright in comments on the blogs belongs to the author of
Anyone posting to the blogs warrants that they are the copyright holder
or that they have the express permission of the copyright holder to
post copyright material there.
Some photographs were not taken by myself, but were
copyright holders of some photographs are unknown. If you think you
know who took a photo or commissioned it, please contact me.
Grateful acknowledgement is made to Louise White
of me in red,
at Thurmer piano with score of Androgyne Adagio/Androgyne Prophecy),
and Mark Coughlan
(editing of ColourFast Piano Music).
(c) Margaret Dylan Jones, 15 November 2015.