Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Dominique-René de Lerma: Copyright Again

José Maurício Nunes Garcia (1767-1830)
Afro-Brazilian Composer & Organist
Who Composed Brazil's First Opera
is featured at

Dominique-René de Lerma:


The heirs of Martin Gaye have been awarded $7,300,000 in a copyright infringement case against Robin Thicke for plagiarizing Gaye's 1977 Got to give it up in the current Blurred lines, so reported Ben Sisario in the New York times (10 March 2015).    The judgment was based on the printed music, not the performance, comparing the harmony, melody, and text of the two -- an outsider might suspect far more similarity at least regarding harmony and melody by examining the whole corpus of pop music since the Beatles, so the court brought in Charles Cronin from UCLA's Gould School of Law as copyright expert.
It often happens that a student arrives at an audition with a photocopy of a copyrighted work for the pianist.  The  performer is denied the audition.
At my last visit to the Music Department of the Library on Congress, a photocopier was right there for public use, facilitating illegal copying.
A well known conductor of a splendid choral group, was sued by Fisk University's then president for calling his group Jubilee Singers, a name not legally limited to the University's original ensemble and used by many ensembles since 1871.  The case was lost, but the innocent conductor had to care for all the (substantial) legal expenses, despite being completely exonerated.
I am certainly not alone in having similar situations -- my logo was reprinted in a California paper some years ago and there are online performances of my editions of the music of Saint-Georges which even lack acknowledgement. 
The most serious infringement relates to my edition of the Requiem of José Maurício Nunes Garcia.  I received a phone call from the conductor of a small regional orchestra in the Midwest, stating that the rental of parts from Associated Music Publishers was -- at $400 -- too expensive for his budget.  He asked if I would request AMP for a special rate.  They refused, of course.  Then he asked me to identify the source for my edition!  Refusal again.  Finally he called and said he would personally transcribe the music from our Columbia recording and publish the results at less than AMP's rate.  I told him this would be an overtly illegal act, quite apart from being an enormously laborious task.  He enlisted William Grant Still Music to advance the sales of his result, but Judith Still refused to participate.  (The infamous conductor in question has a reputation for avoiding royalty payments.)  Then later Robert Leigh Morris sent me a photocopy of the pirated copy, which bore a totally fictitious note of gratitude to me for having granted this permission!  I alerted the legal departments of both Columbia and AMP to the crime, but neither ever replied or took any action.  Can criminals commit their acts, free from any legal action, as long as the potential law suit falls short of an unstated settlement?  While applications relative to the electronic media beg for consideration, the situation regarding traditional materials have yet to be clarified.

Dominique-René de Lerma

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