Tabbed Music Copyright Issues

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Posts: 61
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 11:13 pm
Location: Edinburgh

Tabbed Music Copyright Issues

Post by edin »

Clarification is needed in regard to "tabbed" music (music played on a guitar or keyboard by ear) and its inclusion in videos made for inter club competitions. Is this type of music covered by the IAC copyright agreement for clubs. It is not derived from any specific source ie cd or sheet music and may be a created by the player from several sound sources over time - its playing by the musician may be covered by the performing rights copyright - but whose?

Can anyone provide any clarification on this issue.
Mike Shaw

Re: Tabbed Music Copyright Issues

Post by Mike Shaw »

As I understand it, there are two issues -

Royalties - these are due to the creator of the music, as payment for the work. After a certain period (70 years?), written work becomes Royalty free unless it has been taken up by someone else. A lot of music from the early 1900s falls into that category.
Performing Rights - these are due to the performer of the music - the person or group who play it 'their way'.

Church music is invariably Royalty free - but performing rights are technically due to the organist if the music is recorded (on video say).

In the case of tabbed music - I believe it would be the performing rights that are at issue and which requires the answer you seek, and those rights would be held on behaf of the performer and I believe should be covered by the 'Certificate of Participation - British Phonographic Industry/Phonographic Performance Licence', issued by the IAC along with the the MCPS (Mechanical Copyright Protection Society) Licence which covers the Royalties.

(Two licences are involved here - and are often confused as being just one licence).

That's my understanding of the situation - I'm sure someone with more erudite knowledge will step in and clarify the situation more for you.
tom hardwick
Posts: 843
Joined: Mon Jan 29, 2007 9:59 am

Re: Tabbed Music Copyright Issues

Post by tom hardwick »

Went to buy a MCPS Limited Manufacture Licence to cover tomorrow's wedding to find that the price has dropped and that there are no holographic stickers supplied any more. Price has dropped? Whatever next?
Ken Wilson
Posts: 131
Joined: Mon Jan 29, 2007 11:17 pm

Re: Tabbed Music Copyright Issues

Post by Ken Wilson »

Hi Tom.
There have been no holographic stickers since the middle of last year. I still wish they would do an annual licence instead of having to get them individually every time.
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Dave Watterson
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Location: Bath, England

Re: Tabbed Music Copyright Issues

Post by Dave Watterson »

Edin, I had hoped someone with a better knowledge of this field would answer your question.

If I understand properly you are talking about music played using a simplified notation, rather than people improvising on instruments. If that is so then it is just the same from the copyright point of view as playing from a full score.

a) assuming you have the permission of the musician to use their performance
b) you still owe a fee to the original composer of the song and the lyricist if that is a different person and you use the words. Composer and lyricist copyright lasts until their death plus 70 years.
c) You may owe a fee to the arranger of the music - whoever created the tabbed version - and even the publisher of that version.

The IAC Copyright licences are concerned mainly with the use of music from existing commercial or library recordings but the MCPS licence seems to apply. (MCPS and PRS combined in 2009 as "PRS for Music".) They represent most composers/lyricists etc.

I said "most" because there is no requirement that those creative people use that agency and a few do it themselves or appoint someone else to handle such matters.

What if the musicians are playing by ear? The original composer, lyricist and publisher may still have rights in the piece unless it is more than 70 years after their death. No problem with a bit of Bach but big problem with any Franz Ferdinand.

What if the musicians are improvising? So long as it is all improvisation the position is the same as if they had composed the piece. They own all the rights and can grant you the right to use their music. The catch is that many improvisations drift in and out of recognised music and even a couple of bars from an identifiable song requires copyright clearance.

Sorry, Edin, you wanted a simple answer and nothing in the field of copyright is simple.

If the creator of the video has the IAC licences and permission from the musician/s there should be no problem using the film at normal club, interclub and festival screenings in the UK.
Note that a set of licences bought by a club only covers "club productions" - i.e. team productions made in the name of the club. It does not cover videos made by individuals who happen to be members of that club, they need to get their own licences.

Dave (phew!)
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