© 2013 Jonathan Minkoff
Arrangers, especially in a cappella music, are always looking for songs to arrange. And once they make an arrangement, especially a good one, those arrangers are often asked for copies. What should they do?
Some give away the arrangements, some sell the arrangements. But, unless the arranger has permission from a composer, selling or gifting copies of arrangements is illegal.
Thankfully, there is an exception: The Public Domain.
Works in the Public Domain are free for anyone to use in any way they choose. You won't need to make any payments, and you won't need anyone's permission. The trick is knowing whether a particular published song is actually in the Public Domain or not.
The chart below can go a long way towards helping you determine the answer. All you need to know to begin, is when the work was first published. Once you have that, you're off!
Public Domain Chart for Works Published in the United States
Everyone has heard the warnings not to illegally copy music, but many do. After all, what’s the harm?
Some believe that it’s a victimless crime. Some believe that only businesses get sued, not users. Some believe that computers make them too anonymous to sue.
That turns out to be wrong on all counts, as a defeated 20-something recently found out to the tune of over half a million dollars in damages and tens of thousands more in legal fees.
Most a cappella groups perform cover songs written by other artists. The Copyright Act gives you the right to record these “cover” songs by means of a compulsory license. Compulsory means you don’t need anyone’s permission. All you need to do is
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