Old Public Doman Melodies & Settings (carols) - Completely New Songs

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Sophia Gr33N
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Joined: 16 Dec 2020 17:32

Old Public Doman Melodies & Settings (carols) - Completely New Songs

Post by Sophia Gr33N »

Old Public Doman Melodies & Settings (carols) - Completely New Songs

Hello people! I have questions about the fundamental identity of new works based on old public domain works which are popularly known.
i.e., based on "Christmas carols".

I have created a set of 12 songs, set to 4 part harmonies, for a collection of NEW holiday carols. The melodies of all the songs are derived from well-known public domain works, whose arrangements are also in the Public Domain.

1. Knowing the history of "Christmas carols", it's clear that for even for some of the most vaunted among them, their histories with attribution are somewhat murky. For example, the melody of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" was lifted from a secular Cantata by Mendellssohn, re-named, and now almost everyone thinks of that melody as being "Hark", etc. The tune's identity was totally transformed by the popularity of the new lyrics and title, those lyrics having ALSO been lifted from an earlier tune (having been written by Charles Wesley and George Whitefield without knowing what notes those words would eventually land upon). The English church organist whose arrangment of "Hark" is in the public domain, merely married Mendelssohn's tune with Wesley and Whitefield's song.

I have created NEW, spiritual carols, using known "Christmas carols" for the melodies and settings.
As a a classical instrumentalist, I define "song" as being the poetic words, the lyrics. Just as melodies are "lifted" and repurposed, so are "songs/lyrics". My rock 'n roll friends call EVERYTHING a "song". I don't.

As such, my new song isn't based on "Hark" (which is its own song). The one I'm submitting is absolutely new, with its own identity. Under its own title, I want it to reference the original complete composition by Mendelssohn, which is NOT "Hark", but "Vaterland in deinen Gauen" - both lyrics and melody.

2. The input forms for CPDL licensing seem to assume that ownership of any choral piece is with the composer. That's generally true, but the above example shows that WORDS (i.e., the "song", composed of title and lyrics), can dominate the identity of a piece - thereby redefining it.

3. According to CPDL, is a "song" by the lyricist, or is it by the "composer", however unwitting that composer may be of the song?

4. Is there, in CPDL, a way to indicate that a song's primary identity comes from the lyricist/author, rather than the composer?

5. When the author of the song, composer, and arranger diverge (assuming the latters' efforts are in the Public Domain), which whole or part of the new piece gets licensed? Does the CPDL license/copyright apply to the combined result (song + composed melody + arrangement), semi-combined result (song + newly composed arrangement), just the "song" lyrics alone, or all applicable combinations?
choralia
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Re: Old Public Doman Melodies & Settings (carols) - Completely New Songs

Post by choralia »

Sophia Gr33N wrote: 16 Dec 2020 20:02 3. According to CPDL, is a "song" by the lyricist, or is it by the "composer", however unwitting that composer may be of the song?
We seldom use the term "song" here on CPDL. We generally use the term "work". According to the intellectual property laws of most countries, the authors of a work are all those who have provided an original contribution to that work. The composer, the lyricist, the arranger, the translator, the author of a continuo realization or of a keyboard reduction, etc., are all regarded as authors (when present, of course).
Sophia Gr33N wrote: 16 Dec 2020 20:02 4. Is there, in CPDL, a way to indicate that a song's primary identity comes from the lyricist/author, rather than the composer?
Generally speaking, all components of a work (music, lyrics, arrangement, etc.) have the same importance, so I'm not sure whether the concept of "primary identity" of a work can be applicable. Anyway, the main search index at CPDL is based on the composers category, however users can also search works based on the lyricists category instead. So, composers and lyricists are essentially treated symmetrically at CPDL.
Sophia Gr33N wrote: 16 Dec 2020 20:02 5. When the author of the song, composer, and arranger diverge (assuming the latters' efforts are in the Public Domain), which whole or part of the new piece gets licensed? Does the CPDL license/copyright apply to the combined result (song + composed melody + arrangement), semi-combined result (song + newly composed arrangement), just the "song" lyrics alone, or all applicable combinations?
One can claim copyright on original contributions only. For example, if you combine music by a certain composer with lyrics by a certain lyricist, and you are the first person doing that, your original contribution is the combination of music and lyrics together, while you have no rights on the music and on the lyrics separately. As a consequence, any kind of permission that you can provide for that work only applies to the combination of music and lyrics together. If someone wants to use the music only or the lyrics only, they will not need your permission.

I hope this answers your questions.

Max
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