it frightens me that one day some handjob copywright lawyer will be in a jazz club, hear a cat reference a coltrane lick, and slap him with a copywright infringement suit. seriously gang, i think this day will come.
And lawyers wonder why people run the gamut from frustration to downright disdain for them. Where is common sense in all of this?
Andrewfus, I would not worry my little head about that. I have practiced over 30 years. First of all, I don't think fragments of melody are copyrightable. Second, it wouldn't make any sense to sue most jazz musicians. Third, I think the establishment would be the target. Fourth, just where in hell will you find a lawyer that would recognize a Coltrane lick that is not a jazz musician who could be a target himself?
Gary, you can't reasonably attribute Andrewfus's fear and being based on lawyer conduct.
Both: What I really fear is that I will be in a bar some night, and some jazz musician will attack. me. Since I feel this way, the fear is reasonable and based upon what jazz musicians do.
(Don't get me wrong, I have seen, and opposed on behalf of my clients, a lot of silly and stupid
stuff by lawyers.)
UNITED STATES COPYRIGHT LAW: A GUIDE FOR MUSIC EDUCATORS
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If a solo is made famous on a record, an arrangement would often have the solo transcribed as part of the arrangement (e.g. many Glenn Miller charts). I have often had to play the "recorded solo" on gigs, as this is what the audience expects to hear. An example would be the baritone solo on Blue Monday
Hey i'm a piano player and since this is the most detailled post on copyright issues concerning jazz solos, i'd be very glad if i got my questions answered here.
Actually I have the same concern and guess I haven't understood the answer.
- If I transcribe a solo noone has transcribed before, can I just publish it (and reference to the recording) without paying or notifying anyone?
- If I transcribe a solo noone has transcribed before, can I just publish it, put in on a chart, write the title of the song, the actual composer of the tune, reference to the recording?
- And what I'm also concerned about, as a Piano Player: Let's say I checked out the changes of some reharmonization of a standard or a tune that to my knowledge isn't in any realbook (up to know). Can I just publish it, with changes, title, composer, ev. reference to specific recording? (as long as don't write out the melody/head)
- So to sum up: Composer, Chart/Changes (reharmed or "as-is"), Original Title, and A Solo ... but no melody --> no problem?
I'd really appreciate if anyone would like to share his opinion on this with me.
The law in the US is complex, and generally favors the full rights of the composer over any sort 'fair use' (a la recording mechanical licenses). I have not heard that improvised solos are property of a song's composer. I was always under the impression that improvisations were a little more 'up for grabs,' if you will, but I could very well be mistaken.
Regarding the chord changes: I believe this area is a little fuzzier. I don't believe it's quite accurate to state that chord changes are not or cannot be protected be copyright. That said, I do know that Jamey Aebersold distributes a book (Pocket Changes) which does exactly what you describe: chord changes, form, title -- no melody. And, as Jamey is (1) an upstanding citizen and (2) in the public eye, I would expect that this publication is above-board and legal.
Are you in the U.S.?
I think, were I the defense attorney representing somebody who had performed an improv solo that they had transcribed, I would have a good shot at showing that there is no copyright violation. Copying the solo onto a CD and selling it, yes, an infringement. Copying a video of the performance and selling it, yes, an infringement. Transcribing the solo and performing it, no. Copyright is to protect the work and effort of the writer/performer. The improv was performed (copyrighted performance) but not written. The effort in transcribing the solo takes effort and time. It may take more musical training than the original performer has. It is a "derivative work" that probably, in and of itself, is entitled to its own copyright.
Is that a grace note at the start of the riff? How many waivers in that trill? Does that run start at mf or ff? Is that a growl before the flip? How far down did the plop plop? Should you transcribe what appears to be a little mistake in timing? These determinations are all the effort of the transcriber, since there is no original written work. Anybody who has transcibed a solo to learn transcription (there is an education exemption) can tell you that the trascription process takes a 100 times the amount of time of the original performance. It's a huge effort (at least for me).
And since reasonable attorney fees can also be awarded to the successful defendant, it's silly to think that BMI is going to come after you for playing your transcribed solo at a picnic.