History of Tunes/Public Domain

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Joined: 25 Aug 2008
Groups: None
History of Tunes/Public Domain

Does anyone know of a good web site to gather information on the history of a tune, or to verify if a tune is in the public domain?

Commenting on this Forum topic is closed.

Joined: 8 Sep 2008
Groups: None
History of a tune

Believe it or not, you can find information about more famous tunes on Wikipedia. I also look at tunes on chordie.com to learn the chords to songs. They often list names of artists over the years who have recorded the songs, and you can use that information to cross-reference them.

Joined: 8 Dec 2006
Groups: None
The question needs some

The question needs some clarification.

How are you going to use the information?

If you issue a recording with copyrighted tune and list it as "traditional", the lawyers will find you. If you simply want to avoid playing copyrighted tunes at venues not licensed by the performance rights organizations (BMI/ASCAP/SESAC), you might want to keep your venue out of trouble. For public performances, it is the venue - not the performers - that faces legal and financial censure.

Wikipedia is not a trustworth source. It doesn't show due dilligence if you need the information for strict legal purposes. Wikipedia does no fact-checking, no validation, no verification required for anything you enter on Wikipedia. Individual users fact-check each other, but Wikipedia does not stand behind any of the information it publishes from a legal standpoint.

We also avoid any other Web-only citation because those can disappear in a flicker. However, Web references can lead to to other solid evidence if you follow the trail.

So what do do?

Stand on the shoulders of others who have higher standard than Wikipedia and who, if they incorrectly published copyrighted material as "traditional", would have been sued long before now.

My organization uses a more liberal approach: we mark something "public domain" if it is cited as "traditional" or "public domain" in any reputable hard-copy publication, including:

  • CD liners
  • magazines about music
  • books about music
  • any collection of notation, such as the Phillips Collection, the Portland Collection, any of the fake books

    Oldtimers play a lot of tunes that are more recent and copyrighted. East Tennessee Blues, Nail That Catfish to a Tree, and Benton's Dream are among the most popular.

    We're still working on our list and when we play at venues that we know are not licensed, we try to play from the "confirmed PD" list.

    Keep in mind that you can still get in trouble if you record, or perform in an unlicensed venue, any copyrighted and registered ARRANGEMENT of an otherwise public domain tune. You are less likely to get caught for this kind of violation, but it is a violation just the same. There are countless copyrighted arrangements of public domain tunes that are registered with BMI, ASCAP, etcetera. The fact that something is listed in their online database is not proof that a the tune itself is or is not copyrighted. For example, some of our beloved songcatchers copyrighted field recordings as "publisher" of that particular arrangement.

    Good luck in your search. Our list has less than 200 tunes validated using the methods cited above. The other volunteers on the project faded away.

  • Joined: 5 Nov 2007
    Groups: Jersey Jam
    "Believe it or not" is

    "Believe it or not" is exactly the problem with Wikipedia. There's no way to know if you should believe it or not. Anyone can say anything there.

    It's great stating place to get some grounding on a topic, but if you're going to need to depend on facts, you must check with more reliable sources.

    BTW, the fact the it is the venue's responsibility to get appropriate licenses for performance, does NOT mean that the performer is protected or shielded in anyway.

    If the venue has an 'absolutely no covers' policy and you play one anyway and the venue get's sued by a PRO, rest assured the venue will turn around and sue you.

    Additionaly, while it's the venue's responsibility to be licensed, that also doesn't mean that the performer can't obtain DIRECT permission from a copyright holder.
    I know it's a delicate and often argued matter, but ASCAP and BMI's policies DO point out that the rights owner can still give licence directly. Chek their website for some good info.


    Joined: 25 Aug 2008
    Groups: None
    new bow hair

    Has anyone ever had the experience of buying a bow that has inferior hair? The bow in question is supposedly a new beginner's bow that might have been made in China. Do you think that I might have a "lemon?" The bow has been rosind to death and it still doesn't grip the strings very well. I'm goin to take it back to the store, but I wanted to find out if anyone else has ever had this problem.
    Music, food for the soul.

    bow hair can 'wear out'

    Bow hair can eventually change characteristics and stop gripping. I don't know what it is about the hair that changes, but I gather that small burrs on the hair eventually break off. It's also possible the bow started with a bad hair job. It's not simply a matter of getting the hair attached to the bow - each hair needs to 'face' a different direction to get grip evenly on up and downbows.

    I'd take it back and compare to other bows and likely push for a replacement.

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