rory songs in the public domain

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rory songs in the public domain

Postby rlreis » 09 Jul 2012, 14:20

I am a musician who loves Rory Gallagher and I do a couple of covers of his songs: "Bad Penny" and "Out on the Western Plain". This one place I play only allows us to play original or public domain songs (to avoid paying the ASCAP and BMI licensing fees). "Out on the Western Plain" is not in Public Domain, right? Does anyone know of any Rory songs that are Public Domain. You have to be sure because it is a fairly tricky business. Thanks.
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Re: rory songs in the public domain

Postby Flamenca » 09 Jul 2012, 16:33

Hi Rireis

Many of the black, blues writers were not represented by ASCAP - for social not creative or commercial reasons.

I've just checked the ASCAP database and Rory is credited as the writer of 'Out on the Western Plain'.
The reason for that could be because his arrangement/version of the song is still in copyright. In US law, it will continue to be so for 95 years after publication ... This also applies to any other song that he created /composed / wrote himself.

I've just checked the BMI database for you as well, and it states that Lead Belly's arrangement is still in copyright and administered by Folkways Music Publishers Inc. Again, it will remain in copyright in the US for 95 years after first publication.

There are also three other versions in copyright by different people, suggesting that the song was traditional in origin, with each person creating a copyright in their own arrangement / version.

To avoid ASCAP and BMI you would probably need to obtain the sheet music for the original song to prove you were using that arrangement / version, not any of the others still in copyright.

Best wishes
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Re: rory songs in the public domain

Postby RobertaSparrow » 09 Jul 2012, 16:42

I believe the song itself, "Out On the Western Plain" is in the public domain. Most likely a traditional folk song that may have been written by Lead Belly, but was most likely Lead Belly's interpretation of a folk song. Same with "Could've Had Religion," which is so strongly associated with Rory Gallagher because he played it so often, and varied the words and interpretation each time. Unlike so many others like Page and Plant (Led Zepplin) he didn't take other artist's music and claim them as his own, he was meticulous- to a fault- in wanting to try to credit the original artists whenever he could, and a lot of those old blues and folk songs that he regularly performed he changed the lyrics and added his own interpretations, just as many of the previous generations did before him. They truly are as much his compositions as they are of the earlier artists who recorded them, but Rory was too modest to claim them as his own. They may have originated over here, but each artist who finds them adds his or her own flavor to it. But isn't that really the nature of folk and blues music? A lot of those old blues pieces he did he made his own, ( excellent example, Rory's version of "All Around Man" written by Bo Carter, but with Rory's lyrics. He takes no writing credit for it, although the lyrics are completely different yet based on the structure of the original, and IMHO he deserves as much credit for it as Mr. Carter)

Anyway, many of Rory's signature pieces are based on traditional old folk or blues music, and their origins are in the public domain. If you look on the liner notes on the albums he always tries to attribute to the original artist if he can, and on those, if you do a web search on the origins you will most likely find that they are based on very old traditional folk songs so are in the public domain. By the same token, if he claims authorship for a song, like "Bad Penny" or Tattoo'd Lady you can count on him being the author of the song, and those most definitely are not in the public domain.

The legal issues are a little tricky, and there are many famous (perhaps infamous would be better) examples of artists hijacking the music of others and getting away with it.

This is an interesting link that is tangentially related to the topic (apologies for the commercials that preceed the clip- couldn't find a way to remove them:

[youtube]http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/410256/march-08-2012/don-fleming--elvis-costello---emmylou-harris[/youtube]

http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colber ... lou-harris

From an American talk show, comedy show, the Colbert Report, features a discussion with Elvis Costello, Emmylou Harris, and Don Flemming. It is somewhat illustrative of the topic at hand, and rather entertaining as well.

FYI: a link to the archives with many of the original songs: and the link to the archives:

http://www.culturalequity.org/
Last edited by RobertaSparrow on 29 Jul 2012, 23:03, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: rory songs in the public domain

Postby tonetanner » 09 Jul 2012, 20:20

Catfish Keith does a version of 'out on the western plain' - he calls it 'when I was a cowboy'. It sounds similar, but just different enough. Maybe this is the way to go - call it a different name to the album version (of whatever), but recognisable to 'punters'.
TT
what do you think of that?
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Re: rory songs in the public domain

Postby rlreis » 10 Jul 2012, 11:43

Hey TT:
I like the way you think. I'm going to do just that. I've already come up with a couple of new verses on my own. I think I'll call my version "The Greatest Cowboy".
Also thanks to all who have responded. Mucho appreciado.
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Re: rory songs in the public domain

Postby ronll^m » 24 Jul 2012, 21:56

What about She Moves Thro' The Fair-don't know if there are words- , and of course Amazing Grace ?
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Re: rory songs in the public domain

Postby rlreis » 18 Aug 2012, 14:35

Are those songs Rory did?
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Re: rory songs in the public domain

Postby folkdeejay » 04 Sep 2012, 09:12

I think the venue you play at is probably being unrealistic, or maybe just lazy - my understanding is that (in the UK anyway) PRS is due even if a band plays wholly original material - you are meant to keep set list records for each gig, you should register with the relevant body, and all venues that have a licence to put on live music are meant to be part of the scheme... there are very few exceptions, and these tend to be schools/village halls etc ...a bar/pub style venue with alcohol on sale and (probably) tickets on slae to some/all gigs should be part of the scheme.... because which band will not throw in one or two covers unless they are playing 100% original stuff to a fan-base ( in which case, they will likely be "on the circuit" and so already "in the system").
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Re: rory songs in the public domain

Postby RobertaSparrow » 04 Sep 2012, 18:59

ronll^m wrote:What about She Moves Thro' The Fair-don't know if there are words- , and of course Amazing Grace ?

folkdeejay » 04 Sep 2012, 01:12
I think the venue you play at is probably being unrealistic, or maybe just lazy - my understanding is that (in the UK anyway) PRS is due even if a band plays wholly original material - you are meant to keep set list records for each gig, you should register with the relevant body, and all venues that have a licence to put on live music are meant to be part of the scheme... there are very few exceptions, and these tend to be schools/village halls etc ...a bar/pub style venue with alcohol on sale and (probably) tickets on slae to some/all gigs should be part of the scheme.... because which band will not throw in one or two covers unless they are playing 100% original stuff to a fan-base ( in which case, they will likely be "on the circuit" and so already "in the system").



Are you talking copyright infringement or plagiarism? Or is this something else, some type of fee structure that is unrelated to authorship, that is unique to Britain or Europe? Because if this is about copyright infringement or misappropriation of intellectual property rights, there are reasonable measures one can take to avoid infringing on another's property rights while still allowing an artist to express their own creativity.

Amazing Grace is most definitely in the public domain. She Moves Through the Fair is another traditional folk song that is likely much more than 100 years old. Any creative variation on those would not be an infringement as far as the original melody or words- they're folk songs, passed down through the ages. That is how it's always been.

This quote seems relevant. While perusing the topic on the internet, I saw this line cited from case law: "Others are free to copy the original. They are not free to copy the copy," Bleistein v. Donaldson Lithographing Co., 188 U.S. 239, 249 (1903).

There are numerous case law examples of copyright infringement or misappropriation of intellectual property rights. Two of the more famous cases are the myriad legal mess that involved George Harrison's My Sweet Lord and the The Chiffon's recording He's So Fine- Bright Tunes Music Corp. v. Harrisongs Music, Ltd. et al, 420 F. Supp 177 (1976); ABKCO Music, Inc. v. Harrisongs Music, et al, 508 F. Supp. 798 (1981);944 F.2d 971 (1991).

Or the lawsuit the Isley Brothers brought against Michael Bolton- Three Boys Music v. Michael Bolton 212 F.3d 477 (9th Cir.2000).

A friend of mine got to sit on the jury for the Isley Brothers/Michael Bolton case when it was originally litigated in Los Angeles. Of course when she was first Impannelled on the jury she couldn't discuss any of it but as soon as the trial ended she called and told me all about it- and we both found it hilarious that Michael Bolton actually claimed that he'd never heard of the Isley Brothers. He expected people to buy that excuse.

Anyway, If you copy those case laws and paste them into google search it will direct you to a wealth of information on that topic- other more recent cases and of course very timely and relevant law review articles, and the law is quite fluid- it is in a constant state of flux, but there is plenty of allowance for creativity especially if you are using the original source as inspiration, and not someone else's interpretation. "Others are free to copy the original (in the public domain). They are not free to copy the copy."

http://www.culturalequity.org/ this is a link to source material for much of the folk music that was an inspiration to Rory and others. It's all in the public domain, it's all free.
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Re: rory songs in the public domain

Postby rlreis » 07 Sep 2012, 18:10

Thank you Roberta for your input and all the links you have provided. They will be very useful indeed. My sweet lord but you're so fine.
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