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This question was sparked by the thread regarding the ASCAP decision to prosecute establishments violating the music licensing rules and regulations.

But what is the definition of "original" music if there is any. Interested in personal opinions and/or the legal definitions as well.

Since jazz is built upon the foundation of the techiques of the legends, everyone copies and emulates, them and one another, I would be surprised if there is not some formal definition laid down in law. However, guess it could be another "I'll know it when I see it" situation.

I understand that completely original music never heard or published before is obviously "original". But when you hear a piece of music and start to recognise licks and phrases or the distinct influence of another performer is where the nuance starts to blur.

So any insights to offer?
Perhaps my underlying assumptions are incorrect. If so, I'd appreciate any corrections.
 

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Well, if no one has anything to offer consider this thread dead and closed. Oh well - :cya: :sleepy2:


Just trying to get my numbers up!
 

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Normally, licks, etc if taken from solos are not copyrighteable. Usually if you wrote/copied anything over four measures from an original song verbatim, that is plagarism (here). Additionally, harmonies are not copyrighted but melodies are.
 

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"Original" music, in the context of that thread, comprises tunes written by the performers.

And please be patient before declaring a thread dead due to no responses. You opened this one yesterday. Not all of us hover on sotw 24/7 waiting for something to answer.
 

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Uh, sorry Al but I opened the thread a week ago. I've only been a member since January but I was getting the impression that the definition must be patently obvious to everyone but me, and I have to admit I'm pretty ignorant to the music business! :)

I'm technically trained but have always found business very, very interesting. But thanks for pointing out a nuance that I wasn't aware of. There's original music written by the performer themselves and then I guess it's implied that original music written by one but performed by someone else is considered differently?

Or am I being too anal about this?
 

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Hmm. When I first looked at this thread it gave yesterday's date on the first post. Now it says 8/3. Software. You can't trust it. Sorry.

Let me say it another way. Original music is music to which you hold the copyright. Surely you've heard performers say, "Now I'm going to play one of my original tunes." If you got it from someone else, it is not your "original."
 

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A philosopher would say it's impossible to write an "original" since everything you do is "bounce" off something you've experienced...whether you're aware of it or not...


Now the legal questions...If you performed an "original" melody over top of a pre-existing chord progression, such as "rhythm changes" does the law see that as an original tune? What if your using 50% of the pre-existing rhythm changes...? Am I safe from ASCAP, then?
 

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Al -well, I'm glad my desk chair is on wheels and I've got a long mouse cord. Don't have to worry about my arms being to short then! :)

Yes, I've heard the performers say that and then I've heard them go and sing a song, of which background tune, sounds similar to some one else's tune.

Gary states a four measure threshold beyond which becomes plagiarism. I find that very interesting. The pro-level players can fit a whole lot of stuff in four measures.
 

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sinkdraiN said:
Now the legal questions...If you performed an "original" melody over top of a pre-existing chord progression, such as "rhythm changes" does the law see that as an original tune? What if your using 50% of the pre-existing rhythm changes...? Am I safe from ASCAP, then?
A chord progression alone can't be copyrighted, which is why Bird and so many others would stick their own head over a standard progression -- they could blow on the changes without paying royalties....
 

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Well, I figured the line was blurry/fuzzy/moving target. The question is to what extent.

To play a song verbatim word-for-word and note-for-note is obviously a copyright violation. That is as long as the song is copyrighted.

Okay, I thought I had a highly profound train of thought about to hit the tracks but as I was typing along I answered my own question. What a "duh" experience. Man I hate arguing with the little voices....and losing!!!! :cry:

Still not sure, outside of Gary's four-measure rule, what, if any, rule defines original music. But for the orgs like ASCAP it's more of a copyright issue. Until the music is copyrighted they don't come into play. Once it's copyrighted, someone has figured out that it's sufficiently original to be copyrighted. And I guess the easiest way to find that out is the ASCAP web site. (Unless of course someone reading this just happens to have the rules for copyright at their immediate disposal.) :idea:

Cheers!
 

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ratracer: I'd just like to point out that anything you create is automatically copyrighted the moment you create that something. You don't have to apply for an official notice of copyright, but it can be helpful in case a legal dispute occurs (especially for photographers). At least this is how it works in the US.

The only case in which a song isn't copyrighted is when the copyright has expired - which is, everything written before 1923, or 70 years after the death of the creator for works after 1923.

Although, a composer can give rights for other people to perform his/her work, that is their right to do so.

Al is correct when he says that melodies are copyrighted and not harmonies.

Here is an excerpt from an interview with Libby Larsen that may be of interest to you.

S: I have spoken with Dr. Paul Bro and he gave me a brief insight into the development of this piece. He mentioned that originally you wanted to use the first five notes of “I Fall to Pieces” but Sony would not release the rights.

LL: This is true. I am a big fan of Patsy Cline’s music. Her melodic inventiveness epitomizes my belief that a culture’s music springs from that culture’s language(s). Patsy Cline’s words and pitches cannot be separated -- they are perfectly blended, as if they were conceived at one and the same time.

I wanted to deconstruct the melody from “I Fall to Pieces,” but Sony would not release the rights. I suppose I could have legally used the first five notes: 5,6,5,5 (8va), 5 (8va), but they would not have been enough to give me the material for the piece. I really needed the first twelve melodic notes to make the case, since the tonic is not included.
for more about copyright, check out wikipedia's entry. There is some interesting information there. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright

As far as the "four-measure" rule goes, there are instances which parts of copyrighted works can be used legally, which falls under the fair use doctrine which you can read more about here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_use

Basically, things can get pretty tricky, and it is up to the copyright holder of a work to defend his own copyright if he/she thinks it has been infringed.
 

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This issue is nothing new. From what it sounds like, it has been going on for about 100 years.

However, it is always a good idea to avoid using books/lead sheets of stock material as much as possible at a gig, anyway, because then (especially if it is the illegal real book) you are at least not making the whole thing very obvious.

As a composer, I have never written a melody too close to any other song/tune.

It is interesting- Pete la Roca recorded an album with Kenny Dorham and saxophonist Rocky Boyd, and one of Pete's tunes sounds identical to Coltrane's "Impressions". Despite the tempo being slower and the melody phrasing altered slightly, it is instantly recognizable. I believe he wrote it and recorded it after Coltrane made Impressions public. Not sure what the story is there.

Anyway, I think the main focus of this issue with ASCAP is more on rock and pop musicians performing in large clubs than it has to do with anyone else, especially jazz musicians. I do think, though, that we have reached the point where "orginal" or new music should be pushed rather than re-interpreting standards. This isn't saying that everyone should stop playing standards/stock material at gigs, but it seems like we are missing nowadays.
 

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The vast majority of "original" music contains ideas and influences from pre-existing music. If it didn't the bulk of the general population (apart from wierdos like me who happen to like John Cage's work and similar things) wouldn't recognise it as music - you get the familiar "What's that noise?" question all too frequently.

Using other people's stuff usually isn't a problem until it is recognisable in "your" work. If it is, and if you are making a significant amount of money from that piece then the copyright owners (and their lawyers) will most likely sit up and take notice. If there's no money in it, it's not worth their while ("first the hit, then the writ"). Shane Simpson's excellent book Music Business gives a very good account of what you should know about these issues here in Australia.

I'm not sure if a "four bar" (measure for you lot in the USA) rule apples here - I think it is more whether the segment used is recognisable or not. On that basis use of the first four notes of Beethoven's 5th Symphony would be enough to justify a claim - it's a good thing its out of copyright.
 

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dohertyjazz said:
The only case in which a song isn't copyrighted is when the copyright has expired - which is, everything written before 1923, or 70 years after the death of the creator for works after 1923.
Not quite that simple. The law has changed several times, so there are several categories based on what was already in the public domain each time the law changed.

Here's a link to a chart that explains it.

http://www.unc.edu/~unclng/public-d.htm
 

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For some very interesting thoughts on this, check out the book "Miles Davis and Gil Evans: An Historic Collaboration". Besides all the great score analysis, etc., the author has a lengthy section on arranged, composed, recomposed material etc,. in Gil's charts and compares them to the classical composers. According to US copyright Gil didn't compose, but in comparison to how classical composers would write variations on another composers themes, or write works based on folk songs, Gil definitely was composing. Can't remember the authors name, but the book is published by Advance. Very, very, very much worth its $50 price tag,

In a nutshell, in US copyright laws, melody is the only thing that matters.
 

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Biting the hands,,,,,,,.

Unfortunately in this day and age of file sharing and cd copies made on a home computer, the value of intellectual property has been lessened. ASCAP, BMI, copyright laws.....they are all there to protect what is rightfully due to the musician that has composed or performed a piece of work. That includes us. Those same things that are meant to protect us as musicians can limit us as well, especially when it comes to song choice.

If you have to question what is original, my question is what do you want to copy and why?

I have seen several restaurants and gyms (aerobics music) go out of business due to excessive fines from ASCAP and BMI. If you are gigging and it is one of the few clubs in town, is it worth putting that venue at risk?

Writing and composing can be just as a rewarding journey as the road to becoming a performer. Finding the right combination of harmonies, rhythm and melodies can be rewarding. Just like improvisation, make it your own.
 

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This question was sparked by the thread regarding the ASCAP decision to prosecute establishments violating the music licensing rules and regulations.

But what is the definition of "original" music if there is any. Interested in personal opinions and/or the legal definitions as well.

Since jazz is built upon the foundation of the techiques of the legends, everyone copies and emulates, them and one another, I would be surprised if there is not some formal definition laid down in law. However, guess it could be another "I'll know it when I see it" situation.

I understand that completely original music never heard or published before is obviously "original". But when you hear a piece of music and start to recognise licks and phrases or the distinct influence of another performer is where the nuance starts to blur.

So any insights to offer?
Perhaps my underlying assumptions are incorrect. If so, I'd appreciate any corrections.
Dear ratracer

I am truly inspired by your username. I find it very original - haha, get the musical reference? if you don't, shame on you, ratracer - please can you reply to this because i am very curious about the rat racing business. I have been to a few competitions myself, but i would love to get involved in the wider rat racing community.

Cheers for now, Roland the passionate saxophone player
 
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