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Public domain songs being claimed by others.

mduval32323

Editor
Posts: 660

mduval32323 @ 2020-07-27 01:06:42 UTC

Just FYI as I wasn't fully aware of this...I constantly have gotten frustrated with people like A.P. Carter who copyrighted songs they didn't write. However, what I've now learned is there were tons and tons of songs in the so called "public domain" back in the 1920s-1930s that no one benefitted from so the music publishers were pushinig artists to re-record these songs and register them as their own so the publishers could benefit too. A.P. Carter traveled the country collecting songs that he would claim as his own. I was in the middle of changing a song that SHS had set up as an A.P. Carter song "I'll Be All Smiles Tonight" (when there were lots of earlier versions so he clearly couldn't have written the song) when I happened upon an article discussing this. Now it still doesn't explain away the proliferation of folk artists who put their names on everything in the 1950s and such but it's a start.

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Mark

Jeff Chamberlain

Certified Contributor II
Posts: 1349

Jeff Chamberlain @ 2020-07-27 14:06:55 UTC

Another area of "real songwriter" vs. "PRO registrant?"

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JC

sebcat

Managing Editor
Posts: 5208

sebcat @ 2020-07-27 14:43:32 UTC

Another example is Alan Lomax who copyrighted dozens of traditional songs. Personally I think they should be listed as traditionals rather than credited to Lomax. But this would be the opposite to that suggested in the other thread where there’s a preference that we follow the PROs. Maybe this would be a reasonable exception to that rule?

Jeff Chamberlain

Certified Contributor II
Posts: 1349

Jeff Chamberlain @ 2020-07-27 14:53:14 UTC

If we list them as "traditional" can we later change that if evidence shows who actually wrote them? (Recall that this was one of the big objections to trying to identify real songwriters instead of PRO registrants. It's not clear to me why this should be different if the "original" author/composer is listed as "traditional" rather than attributed to a PRO registrant.)

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JC

sebcat

Managing Editor
Posts: 5208

sebcat @ 2020-07-27 15:45:10 UTC

If we list them as "traditional" can we later change that if evidence shows who actually wrote them?

Sure, why not?

mduval32323

Editor
Posts: 660

mduval32323 @ 2020-07-27 16:34:02 UTC

Great example on Alan/John Lomax heck SHS has them as the authors of a bunch of songs that Leadbelly recorded that clearly they didn't write (Leadbelly prob. didn't either on many). I used to get frustrated by all these people claiming credit for songs they didn't write but the reality is who can blame someone for registering whatever they can from a pecuniary standpoint. But SHS shouldn't be robots who just blindly follow whatever the PROs say IMO. But it seems like Bastien might disagree as he frowned upon my not wanting to credit Flatt & Scruggs' wives when I knew the wives hadn't written the banjo tunes. I tend to deal with very old songs where the PROs are largely irrelevant anyway and for more modern works I'm sure they are much more stringent on credits. It's probably more of an issue with songs from the 1950-60s that were arrangements vs. adaptations where the bad registries become problematic (every folk song that was often just an arrangement seems to have been either fully credited or partially credited in the PROs) or when the record label heads seemed to "write" every song.

With that said though, traditional authorship is way overused on SHS too (and I'm sure I'm one of the worst offenders there) but all these 100+ year old songs I deal with are tricky as they often all seem to borrow lyrics from one another and there never is a "right" answer. And good luck if you are adding just a fiddle tune finding the actual author.

And yes Jeff, as Sebastian said, why couldn't one initially assign authorship as "Traditional" and then reassign it once more info. became available. But then maybe that's what "Unknown" is for. I have great difficulty discerning between the two choices for these 100+ year old songs.

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Mark

Jeff Chamberlain

Certified Contributor II
Posts: 1349

Jeff Chamberlain @ 2020-07-27 16:36:53 UTC

If we can't evaluate whether evidence is sufficient to change a "PRO registrant" to a "real songwriter," how can we evaluate whether evidence is sufficient to change "traditional" to "real songwriter" or "PRO registrant" to "traditional?"

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JC

mduval32323

Editor
Posts: 660

mduval32323 @ 2020-07-27 16:59:59 UTC

Well I do evaluate evidence. If others choose not to that's their call but as I encounter Works if I think the authorship we have is dubious I will most definitely reconsider it. I have corrected many things that I myself have added as I've come across them again and again and often am in amazement at how dumb I was earlier. I'm sure every Editor that adds complex works or all these foreign language translations has said the same thing to themselves. It's a learning process and we just do the best we can at the time. I often learn more and more after I keep coming back to a particular work or have heard more performances (or those of different Works that have commonalities). I've quickly become quite the old-time string band person.

When I started trying to add all these old Works to SHS it was really to get the performances on the site as they were our early recording history. I suspect many of these hadn't been already added to SHS because their provenance was difficult to pin down so people demurred. I decided to start plodding away at them anyway and I'm sure I have added many songs with incorrect attribution. Eventually someone smarter than me will happen upon them and send me an error report or just correct them for me.

If there is ever something you are troubled with just ping me and I'll look at it no matter who added it.

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Mark

Jeff Chamberlain

Certified Contributor II
Posts: 1349

Jeff Chamberlain @ 2020-07-27 18:47:17 UTC

Mark, I have no problems with evalating evidence and making reasonable conclusions about songwriting identification. I'm in favor of that, but it was my understanding that several others were against the practice when it came to attributing songs to writers other than the PRO registrants. My question is more about consisgteny: if it shouldn't be done in those cases on what basis would we approve of it being done here? (Or, similarly, of it shouldn't be done regarding PRO cases because of lack of denominated standards by which to evaluate evidence, why does not that same concern apply here?)

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JC

mduval32323

Editor
Posts: 660

mduval32323 @ 2020-07-27 19:36:15 UTC

It’s all over the map. I see all the time Editors assigning traditional to songs that were later registered. Or using the actual authors instead of the registries. But other times we don’t. Guess just depends on who set it up and if they knew of a compelling reason to deviate from the PROs. The reason PROs are irrelevant for older works Is you may see a song registered in 20 diff peoples names anyway and often the actual writer isn’t even in there. I try to find sheet music or catalog of copyrights (as Murray always says). I think you should follow your gut on your submissions. The editor is supposed to review your submission anyway. And there isn’t always a right answer as sometimes there is too much unknown provenance.

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Mark

sebcat

Managing Editor
Posts: 5208

sebcat @ 2020-07-27 20:07:37 UTC

I'm in favor of that, but it was my understanding that several others were against the practice when it came to attributing songs to writers other than the PRO registrants.

Jeff - that other discussion hasn’t concluded yet. In fact more editors were in favour of your position than against it if you have a look. But even if Bastien wants to make PROs leading, he has indicated there will be some exceptions allowed. Traditionals might be one of those.

walt

Editor
Posts: 5257

walt @ 2020-08-01 09:57:56 UTC

An example is always helpful:


To this day, BMI shows Alan Price for writing HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN


BMI Work # 589048

ISWC # T-926481789-2

Total Controlled by BMI: 87.50%

ALTERNATE TITLES:

LE PENITENCIER

LA CASA DEL SOL NACIENTE

SONGWRITER/COMPOSER

CURRENT AFFILIATION CAE/IPI #

PRICE ALAN PRS 56420002


But the list is really endless of others that are registered at BMI for that song:

Woody Guthrie, Tim Hardin, Rose Maddox, Huddie Ledbetter, even Duane Eddy...