By the book? New Scots Guards Collection raises copyright questions
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.”