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Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting/Can anyone use the same arrangement for free?

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Question
Dear Sir,

I have this question.

I understand that every time a song is covered or performed, the songwriters would be paid.

But what about the arrangement/orchestration of the original song?

For example, what if you cover a song originally by Beyonce and use the exact arrangement? Of course you may have your own band, but essentially that band just try to play what they hear from Beyonce's recording.

In that case, do you have to pay for the arrangement?

Thank you

Answer
Hi Liam :

You are correct in assuming the "song" ( music /lyrics ) is protected under most worldwide IP law,
but the accompanying arrangement is usually a "work for hire " and is NOT protected under the song
copyright per se. However OTOH, in somecountries , the "arrangement" can be included in the copyright.


That being said, the arrangement is often protected by a copyright on the recording itself. and should
the label and /or producer choose to litigate your "free" use of any and all elements of the production,
you could be held liable if caught doing a cover version virtually identical to the original.

A lot depends upon the use or exposure of the cover.

I know people do it all the time and get away with it, but that doesn't make it fully legal.

This is really a question that should be addressed by an attorney versed in IP law whever you
reside.

Sorry if this seems wishy washy, but it can be complicated.  

Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting

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Phil Kelly

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I`m a semi-retired professional music arranger with over thirty five years in all phases of the commercial music production business. I can try to answer questions regarding music arranging, theory, orchestration , and/or composition for most acoustic ensembles .( jazz band or orchestral ) I can try to offer suggestions about studio music recording procedures and some basic MIDI applications , too. In the course of my career I`ve worked with such artists as Doc Severinsen and the old Tonight Show Band, Bill Watrous, Buddy Greco, John Gary, Mel Torme, Julius LaRosa, as well as the Pop programs of the Fort Worth, Dallas, North Carolina, and Houston Symphonies, as well as library music material for ABC, ESPN, and NFL Films.

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