By the book? New Scots Guards Collection raises copyright questions

Published: November 30, 2012
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today, if an agreement is even in place, amount to about five cents per tune for every collection sold. Often authors will waive rights in order for their compositions to be more accessible and thus more frequently performed. Performing rights, such as at competitions and concerts, on radio and television, and other “communication” of a work, results in far greater royalties, provided they are licensed and reported.

These royalties are usually tracked, collected and distributed back to authors by one of the major performing rights organizations around the world, such as PRS for Music in the UK, ASCAP and BMI in the United States, SOCAN in Canada, and APRA in Australia.

Legally any composer whose work is published without permission can demand that all sales cease, books be pulled from dealers, and make a claim for royalties owed. But such a move is highly unlikely in the piping world, which has traditionally operated with disregard for copyright law, and since composers relish the exposure in a high-profile collection like Scots Guards III.

The launch of the new collection was celebrated at the Piping Live! festival in Glasgow in August with the appearance of Banks and other regimental officers, along with a recital of a selection of tunes from the book by prominent solo pipers.

“This whole affair speaks to the cavalier treatment of copyright issues in the piping world,” Livingstone said in a comment posted on pipes|drums. “One could readily check with the BBC and the RSPBA to see what steps they take to ensure the creators of the works played are properly compensated for their use on albums, CDs, broadcasts and live streaming. Most would be surprised at the results of such an inquiry.”

By contrast, PipeTunes.ca, an online pipe music resource developed by famed piper Jim McGillivray, himself a popular composer, meticulously seeks copyright approval and then shares royalties with rights holders. Previously, MacHattie’s “At Long Last” was available only on PipeTunes.ca.

“In the end we write for others to enjoy,” Neil Dickie commented.  “If money is to be made it’s simply a delightful by-product of the creative process.  I don’t think any of us regards composition as a significant revenue generator.  That being said, I don’t think any of us like being taken for granted either. I take great issue with the way the RSPBA conveniently ignores the issue of copyright, but I would never deny bands the opportunity to play anything I’ve written.  Similarly, I’m happy that pipers all over the world will see my music in the Guards collection; I just wanted some measure of control over what went in and am most upset that I didn’t get the chance to approve the arrangement/version, nor to approve the final galleys for typographical errors, something the SG collections are notorious for.”

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  1. Lawrie

    With all due respect to retired Scots Guards Pipe-Major James Banks, his comment – I have had no complaints to speak of and have at the moment no comment.” – this has missed the point completely. This is not about whether or not composers complain

  2. pipesofdoom

    Oh dear! In this day and age, with easy internet / email communication, it’s not that hard to get consent from living” composers. Such a shame not to get this right for such an important collection. At least Mssrs Livingstone

  3. Batman

    I am not one of the authors of a tune in this paticular collection, though I have written several pipe tunes that have either been in a collection, played publicly in competition, or on someone’s CD. In all cases to date I was asked, and gave permission. Had I been asked to be included in this colection I certainly would have given permission so as to contribute to the cause, and for the prestige of being included. I would have been very upset to find one of my tunes in any book though, and not have been asked if it could be included. On a couple of occasions someone has made changes to a tune of mine, and if those changes had hown up in a book without my having had a say, I wouldn’t like it one bit. All that said, I wonder how many pipe music composers are members of BMI or ASCAP, and have any sort of real ability to challenge the illegal use of their material. I have belonged to BMI for a long time because of a background in guitar, playing in rock bands, and recording. I assure you that if a guitar tune I wrote showed up on someone’s CD and itwas selling, I would expect royalties, and probably would liked to have been contacted ahead of time and been told it was going to be used. The piping world is a little weird in a some ways. Why the publishers wouldn’t have the courtesy to ask is beyond me. It can’t be all money, because the market for this music just isn’t that big. Lack of common courtesy seems more the issue.

  4. masonsapron

    As a composer your royalties in this case would be close to nil. These books are a dead end, they have no market outside the piping world. They are not like CD’s that are classified at entertainment and purchased by fans, DJ’s etc which, in turn can create a lot of secondary revenue. These are just books of sheet music which are purchased by fellow pipers to entertain themselves, which in turn, have very little, if any potential to create revenue. You could also blame your fellow pipers who were silly enough to shell out the $75.

  5. Lawrie

    So, masonsapron, does this mean there is no case to answer? If you found yourself in this spot, you’d be quite ok with someone using your IP for the express purpose of making a buck without so much as even seeking your consent…? This is all ok because composing is a mugs game (you assert) and there’s no profit being missed anyway? Why on earth then in SG III in existence….?

  6. srmdrummer

    This made me recall an interesting blog post by Mike Grey (one of the potentially ‘infringed’ composers in SGIII). It is indeed a complex issue and one to which pipe bands have traditionally paid little attention. The blog post is from 5 April 2011 and is to be easily found on Mike’s Dunaber site; it’s worth a read. As one who has been subject to unacknowledged IP use (professionally, not musically), I am definitely of the view that it’s not right – ever – even if there’s little-to-no money at stake. Many in our world would probably release their material with no drama, IF they are asked first!

  7. BillLivingstone

    what I would most like to see is that people who post comments tell us who in the **** they are…it makes me crazy when folks hide behind pseudonyms….reveal yourself fergawdsake….I can’t assess the merit of someone’s input without knowing who he/she is…even then I might have trouble, but without that basic information meaningful response/dialogue is impossible… you will all see I never hide behind a phony name…you know that what you’re getting from me, even if you consider it complete and unadulterated crap, is coming from me… William J.R.Livingstone….why do you all hide behind these ridiculous disguises? Andrew, I would support you if you moved to block and/or delete all postings that come from anonymous sources….I know you believe in the internet and freedom of expression and yadda yadda yadda….but the wired world has done some serious maturing in the last while, and I think services like yours have an obligation to make people accountable for their comments which go to the entire World….as in WWW. And still I love you and P|D but you can do better especially in this regard.

  8. srmdrummer

    Re: Bill Livingstone’s request: My name is Stephen Matthews. We have never met, though I have seen you play live. I am in Victoria, Australia and funnily enough I am a drummer (player 30+ years, adjudicator 8 years). In 2004 I had an article published in P|D when it was still a paper-based article. Professionally I am an educator and author. I do normally sign off with my name in these comments but I forgot on this occasion. I use the handle ‘srmdrummer’ on here, Twitter, YouTube and countless forums and social media channels where it does, in fact, distinguish me from the many other ‘Stephen Matthews’ out there. I am not intentionally hiding and trust everyone now knows who I am and might assess the merits of my comments accordingly. — Stephen Matthews :)

  9. duncanmillar

    I wonder what the reaction would be to the true owners offering free / discounted copies of offending pieces featured in the collection. Copyright laws allow for recovery of actual losses when someone else takes the opportunity that should have belonged to the true owner and the true owner can prove it. It would be ironic to force the publisher to have to chase the true owners upon facing dilution of value of the collection. How would the publisher prove their case? What about a concerted effort to point would-be purchasers to the legitimate sources? That is the true power of this venue – the modern boycott in the form of legitimate alternatives with reviews (mostly anonymous), see Amazon.com for a great example.

  10. PipesReady

    Interesting. I wonder how the SG and publisher would react if someone were to post a PDF version online for free download.

  11. Lawrie

    Build a house without council permission and see how long it takes before you get a stern knock on the door. It is amazing to think that in 15 years there was never a thought to contact the composers who own their IP, despite publishing their names (sometimes incorrectly). I don’t know if that’s just plain arrogance, rampant stupidity or both. Easy to see why this is a STEAL at $75. Half the problem is that we are generally all fearful of rocking the boat and scuttling the media exposure we enjoy. The ‘Beeb’ broadcast us at the Worlds, so we don’t wish to throw a spanner in the works there regarding copyright. We can be sure that the RSPBA has assured the BBC that the ‘great unwashed’ will never say boo. And we don’t, like the pliant little things we are. We just rage on forums instead. Then there’s the DVD and CD. This one’s as old as the hills. Again, we don’t want to upset things and lose the media platform that elevates us and makes us feel important (despite wholly paying for the privilege ourselves). Try cutting the artists out of the deal if you broadcast a rock festival. You’d be sued for even thinking about it! Who needs who more? No bands, no event. No BBC or KRL, life goes on. Maybe one day, we all need to ask ‘what’s the worst thing that could happen?’ if we just tested it out with a class action. Do we go to the words to be immortalised on DVD etc..? Or do we go there for the craic and to compete against the best? Life would go on without camera booms invading the circle and 1.5 second delays on the big screens, I’m sure.

  12. anne2

    Apologies for using Anne’s registered link here but I have signed my own handle at the end. First of all let me state that I am in full agreement that composers and publishers should be paid the going rate for commercial projects, especially when it is driven by large media vehicles. The law is there to support anyone to pursue these values . However when it comes to small numbers, small venues and dare a say minority music genre we all know the royalties, copyright custom and practice is a global mess. In a very consumable world the SG is probably the one piping publication to stand the test of time. When I was learning it was recognised as the pipers bible and to many still is. The tunes are part of our piping history and education I doubt that the compilers are making any money from this current project. Performance and publishing royalties is a double edge sword. How many of us have played at band concerts, solo recitals and various public performances and might even have included some of the great compositions from the Scots Guards collections? Pipers generally accept fees for these performances and if it’s a small venue they more often than not pocket the money and disregard any PRS or MCPS copyright or license fees. Some pipers do this on a weekly basis. How many bands photocopy and shoot music through cyberspace on a weekly basis. How many commercial websites upload piping and pipe band performances from organised events to feed the paying subscribers and ignore the PRS and MCPC fees. I happened to be in London a few weeks back and went into the Guards museum. It was a great experience for those like me that have never served in the military. The history and bloody battles of the 7 regiments is well represented in the very colourful display at the museum. It was a very humbling experience for a small entrance fee and an optional donation at the end of the tour of talks , pictures and exhibits. Upon leaving I was astounded to hear that the museum was not officially funded by the government. It is run by ex guardsmen, fundraisers and helpers. This indicates the lack of funding available to the regiments. Unfortunately global conflict costs lives and money with little left to project the profile and history of these great regiments. If the compilers had been more commercially aware they could have contacted the non army composers and said. Look we like your tune (s) and think it would add something to the SG book 3, however as a non serving composer there will be a charge of £10 to be accepted in this collection. I for one would have had no problem paying it. This would also have made it a mandatory method of consulting with the composer and ensuring copy, setting and attributes were accurate. For me having tunes in the Scots Guards book 3 is a great honour. Robert Mathieson

  13. AndrewBerthoff

    Bill – it’s off-topic, but the ability to post a comment with a username or nickname will remain. It pretty much has to. The main reason? Authenticating the true identity of registered users/subscribers would be a full-time task. And then, if such a requirement were in place, if an imposter got through then that would be a headache this publication does not need. Talk about a fleet of lawyers. It works pretty well as-is. Besides, we still live in a piping/drumming world of bullying tactics. Anonymity gives voice for those who are afraid of political or judging repercussions. Rab – interesting insights. But copyright ignorance can’t be justified by copyright complexities. In these instances, copyright law is simple to understand – at least by a professional and long-established publisher and the British Army, no?

  14. Lawrie

    I respect Robert’s views on this and agree with the sentiment, however this issue is more about how we treat, value and respect each other and IP (as Rab has also acknowledged). I’m reminded of a solo gig I once did where the people who sought to hire me suggested I might wish to waive any payment as the event was so “prestigious” and was “terrific exposure”. I asked if everyone else there was working gratis on the same premise. They got my point. While it must be nice to have some tunes immortalised in the Guards collection, the fact remains that those tunes got there via means that would be deemed unacceptable in any industry. How, in our little world, where people brush past each other in beer tents and are ‘online’ incessantly, can this happen? 15 years for the thought to occur??? Simple answer: the majority of people think in a ‘cottage industry’ way and don’t have the first idea, nor do they care about this issue. We all know there’s stuff-all money in composing, and that the mechanics of royalties almost makes the whole exercise pointless anyway. But the facts remain here and the conduct of those charged with this project is careless and void of due respect and basic courtesies.

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TIP OF THE DAY
Pipers: When travelling long distances on a plane with pipes – especially for those using a hide bag – cork the stocks, and store the pipes in a large plastic bag. It prevents excessive drying-out caused by the dry, pressurized air in the cabin.
Sean Somers, Calgary