Open Thread #4: Borrowing Arrangements

Since a friend suggested this, and since I’ll be out for the day at another seminar, I decided to start an open thread posing this question: Is it wrong for one group to borrow another group’s arrangement of a song without giving credit or paying royalties?

Does it make any difference if the group has retired (even if their arrangements are still under copyright)?

Does it make any difference if the two groups had the same producer, and it was the producer’s call?


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11 Letters to the Editor

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  1. Here’s a more fundamental question…

    Can an arrangement be copyrighted? I know there are plenty of artists/arrangers who claim copyrights on arrangements, especially if a song happens to be in public domain and is used with a unique arrangement. What I don’t know is whether or not the law actually permits a particular arrangement to be protected separate from the song itself.

  2. DBM, I believe the answer is, “Yes.”

  3. I am a composer and arranger. I know that compositions can be copyrighted, and have seen where “arrangements” have had copyright notations, but I have always been taught (through the copyright process) that only compositions can be copyrighted, not arrangements.

  4. There are several producers, like Lari Goss, who do almost nothing but arranging. Our choir has done a lot of Lari Goss arrangments and everyone of them has been copywriten. My questions are; Is it copywriten for the arranger or for the publishing company? Does someone like Lari Goss receive a commission from sales or does he get a flat fee for arranging a song for a publishing company?
    I, myself, have done a lot of arranging for choir, orchestra, and quartet. I have found this process to be quite an undertaking. I understand that it is not the same as writing a song from nothing, but there is a lot of “yourself” that goes into an arrangement. I say we need to give credit where credit is due.

  5. That is true…choral arrangements can be copyrighted. That is a good point. Not sure whay the answer is. I too do a lot of arranging. Hope someone can enlighten us.

  6. Yes arrangements can be copywritten. This does not get the composer royalties from air play, nor mechanicals. But it does mean that the arrangement is not open for public use, and usually on a copywritten arrangement, the composer should be contacted for permission to use the arrangement before one actually does so. On another note, how many churches have Xeroxed copies of choral arrangements? It is illegal. What Daniel is referring to is one group “lifting” an arrangement from another and in effect, using it as their on. Or at least I think that is what he is referring to. It has happened to me several times in the last couple of years.

  7. I think the “copyright” on arrangements refers to published arrangements. Not necessarily an arrangement that a quartet might use.

  8. I wish more people observed the copyright law…one doesn’t really think about it till they find someone using their arrangement without permission.

  9. Copyright may subsist in a wide range of creative, intellectual, or artistic forms or “works”. These include poems, theses, plays, and other literary works, movies, choreographic works (dances, ballets, etc.), musical compositions, audio recordings, paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, software, radio and television broadcasts of live and other performances, and, in some jurisdictions, industrial designs.

  10. I think if an arrangement has been recorded, then it is also considered copyrighted.

  11. GlroyBound did it. They sang the same arrangement of I Was There When It Happeds as the Perrys did in 2001.