American Copyright Law... Protecting the Composer or Tying the Church's Hands?
  • Bombarde16
    Posts: 129
    First and foremost, this is a rant... (the airing of grievances for Festivus Friday if you will...)

    I am in no way implying that I think a composer shouldn't receive their due for the work they have provided as a result of their labour's. I'm all for paying a composer.

    Though, that with which I have a HUGE issue is the fact that we have been conditioned that it is "necesaary" for the Church to not be allowed her music unless we pay for it to the proper companies, and then one can get in trouble for using music that is part of her patrimony unless we pay out the nose for it. Capitalism has made us believe that the only way to have good music at Mass is if we have a program that shells out THOUSANDS of dollars to have the TEMPORARY rights to use the music for which we have paid.

    I miss the days, now long passed, where music composed for the Church was music that belonged to the Church, and could be used freely after its composition, without worry about getting into a legal battle about who has the right to use it or not. (I know, I know.... exceptions to every rule...)

    By all means, pay composers their due. But why have we, as the musicians of the church, rolled over in this regard and have submitted ourselves to the bureaucratic nonsense of copyright law? This is why I will continue to support composers in the vein of St. James Music Press, Serviam Scores, CCWatershed, CMAA, and those who place their work in the creative commons, et. al. who have this sense of service to the church. I am happy for composers who allow their work to be published by publishing houses. I have NO LESS respect for them... but I don't care how good your music is.... if there is something of equal value that is being published through Lulu (or the like), or is available in the creative commons, I'm going there first.

    If only we had, as a part of our patrimony, a set of music that was never copyrighted, was public domain, and was timeless.... hmmmmmmmm..........

    End of grievance. Please keep subsequent comments appropriate!
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,766
    I'm all for modern copyright, although I do think it excessive, for sure. (Another reason to thank Disney!) I think the bigger issue is keeping the official translation of texts locked up. I wish the Catholic church used the anglican model which offers the official translation under CC. It is guarded, and fixed, but freely available to all. Such an arrangement with the Lectionary and other "official" translations would go a long way to helping composers.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,992
    In the USA, the churches *CAN* commission works and own the rights to them as works-for-hire (so long as the artists are willing to agree to that and the churches are willing to pay what it takes to get that agreement, and that's the rub) - that's in fact ordinarily the case in contracts for the development of a lot of intellectual property here. (That's harder in the UK because of their laws.)
  • MarkB
    Posts: 1,033
    I like the model of Simply Liturgical Music ( Their music is generally poor because practically anyone can post their submissions there, but perpetual and unlimited reprinting rights for a downloadable pdf file of a Mass setting or a responsorial psalm collection costs $150. One and done, reasonable cost. I think that model should be more prevalent. You can also subscribe to the site for $240 per year and have unlimited access and reprinting rights to everything in the catalogue.

    The only thing I purchased there was a complete pdf file of Fr. Anthony Ruff's Collegeville Chant Psalter. Better and cheaper than physical copies.

    Some choral scores of quality Mass settings cost $17 per copy or more. For a choir of 40 people, that's about $700 when you add shipping costs. And if I'm not going to use all the music in the score (sprinkling rite, Lord's Prayer, etc.), I'm paying or the parish is paying too much money for music we're not going to sing.

    Same with what Bombarde16 points out about spending thousands of dollars per year when most of the music purchased (rented?) won't be sung by the parish.

    It's wasteful.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,775
    First and foremost, this is a rant...
    Please keep subsequent comments appropriate!

    but I don't care how good your music is...

    Do you wear that on the back of a green coat?
  • Bombarde16
    Posts: 129
    I think the best response here is, "Context my dear friend." Look at context. There was a point to be made in what was written.
  • davido
    Posts: 893
    I used to think this way as well, and then I saw how much money my parish spends in a year. Unless the parish is struggling, missalettes are budget dust to pastors.

    I still think disposable missalettes are sinfully wasteful (we currently have Source and Summit) and I have gotten parishes to purchase permanent resources like St Michael Hymnal and Lumen Christi Missal in the past. However I’d rather have a good missalette than a bad one.

    I agree with Serviam, the copyright of liturgical texts is absurd. Especially since the copyright holders force the texts on us and don’t provide the chants for the new texts (which existed for the old Latin mass they replaced).

    As for the legacy music publishers, we can complain about their throw-away missals and their irreverent pop music, but complaining about their pricing models strikes me as cheap. There is no shame in not doing music that you can’t afford to purchase. The church offers simple music for small (poor) parishes (Graduale Simplex); maybe we all expect too much?
    Thanked by 1LauraKaz
  • m_r_taylor
    Posts: 321
    A lifetime's worth of beautiful music for any church is all available for free.

    My guess is that it's harder to find mediocre settings in modern English for free, due to the strain of music from the 60s-70s onwards finding its way into modern publishing practices.

    But at the end of the day, one can absolutely do fine with a minimal music purchase budget.

    A composer of new music wishing to sell it and not give it away for free is hardly contributing to parish financial hardships. At the end of the day, it's lovely that some music is offered for free from the start, and conversely, the worst that can happen when a composer writes a beautiful new piece and puts the copies up for sale is that you pass over on it. But if it's beautiful enough...then I think the purchase can be truly worthwhile, and if it helps give the composer the resources to continue spending time writing more of it, then it's especially so.

    If I ever sold my music, I would do so perfectly aware that some people would pass up on it since they couldn't get it for free. That's just an inevitability, not a problem.
    Thanked by 2ServiamScores tomjaw
  • rich_enough
    Posts: 1,038
    If only we had, as a part of our patrimony, a set of music that was never copyrighted, was public domain, and was timeless.... hmmmmmmmm..........

    When I was MD at a larger parish my budget for purchasing new music was exactly . . . $0.00.

    OK, one time in 6 years I purchased a piece under copyright and I paid for plenty of photocopies, but I simply used music already in the hymnal or the existing music library, wrote my own music, or sang public domain music I copied or found online.

    I have nothing against new compositions (I'm a composer myself), or against copyright (at least in principle), but given the parish's limited budget, and the fact that music has been written for the Church for over 1,000 years, it only makes sense that even after 6 years I felt no need to purchase any music that was not already in the public domain.
    Thanked by 2tomjaw GregoryWeber
  • Bombarde16
    Posts: 129
    Again, I might re-iterate my point that I have no issue paying money for a composer's work. I am a part of a Parish and School operation that is a $1.8 million operation. I have quite a large budget and I have spent plenty of money this year for good quality music... my complaint has more to do with the ongoing payment that one must shell out for the permission to continually use these resources for which we have already paid. To be a good steward of one's resources is very different from being cheap!


    That comment which you quoted was intended as a "tongue in cheek" comment. We have a large patrimony that is free to use! We just need to educate our parishioners about that music and how it is just as relevant now as it was 800 years ago.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,703
    Well, you all have kind of reiterated my own thinking.

    Liturgical Texts
    As per the copyrighted text of the liturgy, I agree it’s a travesty that we are not free to use the official texts of Mother Church to create new works if we choose to do so and are required to pay royalties every time our music is sold. (Personally, I decided to opt out of composing music in the vernacular in general decades ago and if I do, compose works using texts in the PD) ...and of course, many of you know that I steer clear of composing vernacular works for religious reasons :)

    The only texts that I currently employ in the vernacular (because I still provide music for a Novus Ordo at this point in time) are the texts of the Responsorial Psalms. IMHO, The New American Bible translation is a disaster, and I employ the Grail. Has anyone noticed that the antiphon gets a bit tweaked here and there?

    For Sale versus Gratis
    As for a publishing model, (where I publish my works) offers a lifetime license to institutions for purchasing a PDF of any said work. The fee is $1 per musician (chorister, organist, instrumentalist, etc.) and allows one to keep the total number of copies purchased in their library. e.g., choir of twenty pays $20 and retains 20 copies for life. If a copy is lost or destroyed or becomes soiled, one may reprint the piece as needed. This is not a CC license. I do not allow altering of the music OR text as this protects a work from being basterdized.

    Numerous works are posted here on this forum free for the taking. Unfortunately, a lot of the links are deeply buried and some of them are broken (since I installed Wordpress on some of my websites.)
    (side rant... Wordpress is constantly changing themes, plug-ins and upgrading their software, which can render things 'broken'... I have one site right now that I can't get back because of a critical error and it seems unrecoverable.)

    At one post back in 2016, the priest there required that some pieces were in English and I set Faithful Tree (Crux Fidelis) to a modern harmonic style using the translation from the famed Caswal. (this work was offered gratis on this forum years ago.) There are other works in English including numerous Ordinaries of the Mass from much earlier in life.

    Some may be aware that my latest offering is a newly published traditional hymnal with texts completely in the public domain, Fleur de lys. This model employs a customizable print on demand (POD) service which allows the customer to add and subtract titles as long as the music and text are also public domain. The format is such that the melody is posted at the beginning of the hymn text using the first verse. Attached please find page samples.

  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 2,061
    Here is an issue that doesn't occur to most performers in the liturgy:
    Neither ASCAP nor BMI (nor, probably, non-American performing rights organizations) collect for liturgical performances, which is as it should be. If your church choir puts on a concert, they need to pay the appropriate PRO. Now, physical royalties are chump change compared to performing rights. But they have to bear the burden of feeding the composer, who, if he is a specialist in liturgical music, is left with "laying up treasure in Heaven" as a business model.

    I've had no problem with paying for the occasional modern piece, as long as it's not from countries and companies who think their music is worth >$5/page (si tu comprends). But my situation is unusual in that all of my liturgical needs can be satisfied in the public domain.

    The problem is not in copyright per se, or in capitalism. The Church had plenty enough music in its public domain, or in local production. Publishing brought copyright, slowly but surely. But none of that music was necessary. The problem is that in the 1960s, a whole new repertoire needed to be created, defined and limited by language. and regularly made obsolete by changes to that language. One might be forgiven for thinking that Vatican II was about selling table space in the Temple court.