I'm neither a lawyer nor a copyright expert, too! But major issues concerning copy rights and intellectual property rights are the same around the globe:
- Any author, composer, or "creator" in general owns ALL rights of his work as soon as it is created in his mind AND – regardless of the way – the work/idea has been made public.
- One has to be the FIRST who's created this (at least intellectual) work, and this work must be UNIQUE.
That is quite simple, but it is the essential idea behind all copyright issues. Now we go on to the more difficult spots.
- The creator is alive.
- The creator is dead.
If the creator is still alive,
the question can be answered in a few words: Yes, he holds all the copy rights and has to be asked for any permission for anything (all kinds of publishing, performance, broadcasting or whatever), and he is to be paid for any commercial use (at least in Germany we are allowed to perform copyrighted works for free in e.g. church services; you know it is for its own sake). Still, there are a few important exceptions: every copyright holder can transfer the rights to another one, e.g. to a publishing house. Mainly, composers and authors do this because large publishers have better connections to the organisations which are supervising copying and performances. (Just to mention: in Germany we have two different institutions, one for the creators, and one for the performers. When a copyrighted work is broadcasted, the station has to make payment to the representatives of the performer AND the creator. If the broadcasted work is not copyrighted they still have to pay the performer.)
If the creator is already dead,
he still owns the copyrights, EXCEPT he himself has been dead for 70 years and the work itself is at least 70 years old (may be different in other countries). This seems to be more simple, but it isn't. There can be heirs, or there are publishing houses to which the creator assigned the rights when he was living. Then there could be editors who digged out lost scriptures (their new edition is then copyrighted as well). There can be many situations where copyright problems may arise. One should consider this when altering source files from the CPDL without changing the editor's note! I fully understand everyone who "only" uploads PDFs – I do the same.
Conclusion: If you are sure that you yourself are the copyright holder of your edition you can legally defensible add the suggested CPDL notice to your scores. I use these words: "© 200X by CPDL. This edition can be fully distributed, duplicated, performed, and recorded. Edited by Robert Urmann. Engraved by LilyPond." That covers: this edition as it is. If someone alters notes, lyrics, layout or whatever he HAS TO REMOVE this notice and replace it by his own. Remember: the composition itself is free of copyrights, but the edition is my work!
I hope this will help in general discussions. It is a very complex subject, and there are many other points to be mentioned … shouldn't be a neverending story if only everyone would take the rules of otherone's intellectual property for granted. Printed (vocal) scores aren't that expensive! Rehearsal scores of e.g. Bruckner, Brahms, Bach are just a few bucks; larger quantities have to be bought for public (and non-private) use, but then you get discount offers. I love the CPDL community for the available variety of especially ancient music, which couldn't be published by any single house in the world, but the CPDL can't substitute our beloved traditional music publishers.
Anyway, I'm sure that there are different (minor) regulations in all our world's countries, but the copyright idea is the same allover the planet – and I hope so throughout the entire universe if there other civilisations out there!
All best wishes,