Copyright week, part I: Never take Xerox music into a lesson


“Creative Enterprise” is a major buzz phrase in the musical world today, and relates generally to the idea that you want to actually make money from your musical work. That income can be from a variety of sources and copyright law is potentially a very important element of what allows financial gain from your creative enterprise.

Copyright is a big topic and one that really needs talked about more widely. This series will explore a number of angles on this topic as experienced in the French horn world today.

This series is in five parts and grew from a series of E-mail conversations. To begin, we learn on a basic level about copyright from our teachers and how they approached this topic. Among all my teachers, Verne Reynolds was perhaps the most clear about following copyright law. Bruce Hembd and I both attended Eastman at the same time and he recalled that “I remember Verne not liking Xerox copies one bit.” I remember the same thing and basically I would not have dared to take photocopies of copyrighted publications into a lesson with him.

Which really should still be the reaction of any modern student to any horn teacher today.

Part of the creative enterprise of Verne Reynolds was composition and he had many publications to his name. He was certainly OK with a Xerox page to facilitate a page turn (bad page turns are really a publisher error), but I hesitate to think what fate would have come on some sophomore who walked in with a Xerox copy of anything from the 48 Etudes!

Students today it seems to me have much less inner clarity on the topic of copyright than they would about a topic like “borrowing” permanently (stealing!) a mouthpiece from a teacher.

While YouTube is full of great resources for the horn player (see this article by Bruce Hembd, A Brief Overview of YouTube Resources for Etude and Excerpt Study), at the same time those very resources have erased some of the clarity that might have existed in regard to copyright law for printed music and recordings. There are a lot of copyrighted materials on YouTube, and no question I enjoy them as much as anyone. Still, if tracks from my commercial recordings were to show up on YouTube or were otherwise posted online I would really not be pleased [UPDATE: They have!]. But YouTube is full of videos with easily notable copyright problems, seeming to teach a new generation that “there is no copyright law.”

Going back to the topic of sheet music, when I was a student we often shared physical Xerox copies of orchestral parts, which was the only way to get them in those pre-Internet days. Then along came the big Thompson Edition collection, which was legally produced and widely used. And then we get to today, with new go-to resources to consider.

Jumping way ahead, while we do host PDF public domain resources at Horn Matters, we also have a lot of content here that people can access for free but it is not public domain. Readers can’t do anything they want with our words without permission, such as for example compile our writings into an E-Book. A “Best of Horn Matters” E-Book is not a bad idea actually, but it would be our project to do, not something an unauthorized person or group can or should ever do on their own.

When the series returns the topic will be piracy and theft.

Continue reading copyright series

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