Copyright week, part V: On dissertations, exercises, and other closing thoughts


Creative enterprise comes in many forms, and research/scholarship is certainly a type of creative enterprise impacted by copyright.

“Back in the day,” writing my DM dissertation, my committee did not raise any copyright concerns with me. All of the music itself was in the public domain clearly, but some examples, in those days before the popularity of music notation software, were actually clipped from fairly recently published editions. My understanding at the time (right or wrong) was this use only became a concern if it was submitted to what was then known as University Microfilms for publication, which I did not have to do and did not do. So as a result you can’t buy my dissertation in any form! Copies are only found on the shelf in the library at IU, on loan from the IHS lending library, or on the shelf in my office. About half of it is online somewhere or became published articles … and it is probably time to think about those remaining materials, there is an article or two still in there for sure.

Nowadays of course every Doctoral project goes to ProQuest (UMI successor firm) for publication, and has to have proper copyright notices and permissions for musical examples from copyrighted works or editions. Faculty is also much more up on the facts.

Which is to say though, if you received a Doctorate some years ago, you may have slipped through with materials in your dissertation that actually can’t be there today, and you need to be careful how and where you post those materials now. Lack of proper copyright clearance could come back to bite you. And even if it was a more recent project, your permission to reprint copyrighted musical examples was most likely specifically limited to your actual dissertation, you can’t unilaterally extend that permission for other uses without putting yourself at legal risk.

One bottom line of all of this is that we all must set a high standard in regard to copyright, and that horn teachers in particular need to be setting good examples for their students.

Clarke-snipA point should be added on the topic of warm-up routines and exercises. These tend to get photocopied, passed around, and posted online. If they appeared in a printed source before 1923 (such as this Clarke study) they are public domain, but if published later they would be copyrighted exercises. Even if an excercise was only written down and no copyright notice is present they could be copyrighted, as noted in the last quote in part III.

I hate to be real specific but there are certainly warm-up materials and routines by famous teachers posted online in PDF format that are based on exercises from recently published resources. But the fact is that actually the only legal version to use for study is the original book from which they originate. You can of course post recommendations and guidance as to how to use those materials, but the exercises themselves should really only be referenced from a legally purchased physical copy. By posting or copying those exercises (even by hand) you are depriving the copyright holder of income they are entitled to; the exercises are in fact the copyrighted creative enterprise of their creators. You should not be undercutting them or their heirs of income that is legally deserved.

As a part of writing this article I have done a bit of self-evaluation as well. I have made a few changes, including tossing out a bunch of music photocopies and I will be getting rid of more this summer. For example I had some Bach chorale Xerox pages in the horn choir folders. Those had been copied out of a theory book years ago, but now have been tossed in the recycle bin, replaced by selected pages of Bach chorales from a free online, legal public domain resource.

A final bottom line to mention is this. Teachers and pros should never post or share copyrighted materials online if there is any question of it being legal or not. We need to set a high standard, following the letter and spirit of copyright law, to ensure that we support the ongoing creative enterprise of our peers and colleagues.

Return to Part I of copyright series

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