Copyright in arrangements

• Jul 16, 2019 - 18:43

Just wondering,
If i got a pop song from say 2015 and transcribed the melody and chords ect. for a local band which we would mostly use for rehearsals maybe a few concerts and I didn't seek permission from the writer. Should that be copyright infringement? Or if I got a legal arrangement for anyone's use and just changed parts or moved a couple bars to another instrument because we don't have that instrument. Is that still infringement?


It's important to realize that that most of us here are musicians, not lawyers, and also laws differ from country to country. So this isn't a great place to get advice. But still, I can tell you with some confidence that in most countries, merely creating the arrangement isn't any sort of violation. It's an issue only if you "publish" the arrangement - which includes thing like posting publicly to the Internet.

Using it for rehearsal should not be a copyright violation (unless it is a public rehearsal), performing it in a public concert is, whether you perform it for money or not.
Whenever you publish stuff, put out into the public in whatever form, you need the copyright holder's permission.
If something is free for anyone's use, you can most probably rearrange to your heart's content, unless the copyright note explitictly forbids, like e.g. CC BY-ND

True story.
A university concert band gave a concert while on tour. A trombone player accidentally left his music folder behind. Someone found it the next day. It was full of photocopies of the bands concert music. The person took the folder to the publisher and the university was fined almost a million dollars for copyright infringement. Contracts vary but in most cases, if you make a copy and you loose the original, you have to buy a replacement. You need permission from the holder if you want to do ANYTHING if you want to stay out of trouble. Not getting caught is not the same thing as being OK. Otherwise copyright doesn't mean anything. Bummer, I know.

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