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Does dedicating a work in the mss relinquish ownership?

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Does dedicating a work in the mss relinquish ownership?

Postby Djard » Sat Jun 29, 2019 10:58 pm

If Beethoven lived in New York today and published his "For Elise," would he have transferred ownership of the piece, even if he had previously copyrighted it?

Webster defines dedication of a written work as then technically belonging to the dedicatee. I understand that in legal circles, "dedicated to..." and "For.." are not so synonymous as "for" is less specific and may be interpreted to mean "for the pleasure of (in performance)," merely a gesture of respect or gratitude, not for relinquishing ownership. I'm curious how other composers feel about adding a dedication under the title of a piece.
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Re: Does dedicating a work in the mss relinquish ownership?

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Re: Does dedicating a work in the mss relinquish ownership?

Postby motet » Sat Jun 29, 2019 11:03 pm

Dedicating something is just an honorary thing. It doesn't assign copyright.
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Re: Does dedicating a work in the mss relinquish ownership?

Postby Djard » Sat Jun 29, 2019 11:10 pm

I thought as much. Do you know of any legal reference confirming what we would imply?
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Re: Does dedicating a work in the mss relinquish ownership?

Postby motet » Sun Jun 30, 2019 12:35 am

I don't, and I'm not a lawyer, but I'm not sure why you're worried about it. What makes you think a dedication confers copyright--what is the Webster's you speak of?

Think of a book dedication. The copyright belongs to the author unless reassigned, I'm pretty sure.
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Re: Does dedicating a work in the mss relinquish ownership?

Postby Michel R E » Sun Jun 30, 2019 2:58 am

motet wrote:Dedicating something is just an honorary thing. It doesn't assign copyright.


This.

A dedication is just a symbolic gesture and confers no rights whatsoever to the dedicatee.
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Re: Does dedicating a work in the mss relinquish ownership?

Postby Djard » Sun Jun 30, 2019 3:35 am

I became curious after coming across the definition of 'dedication' in an online dictionary as a "giving" of property. Black's Law Dictionary refers to copyright and publication of a "work" as property but then focuses on land. So evidently dedicating a composition to someone is, as you say, merely honorary.


DEDICATION

372

Copyright law. The first publication of a work, with¬
out having secured a copyright, is a dedication of it to
the public; that having been done, any one may
republish it. Deward & Rich v. Bristol Savings &
Loan Corporation, C.C.A.Va., 120 F.2d 537, 540 (par¬
tial publication).

Express or implied. A dedication may be express, as
where the intention to dedicate is expressly manifest¬
ed by a deed or an explicit oral or written declaration
of the owner, or some other explicit manifestation of
his purpose to devote the land to the public use. An
implied dedication may be shown by some act or
course of conduct on the part of the owner from
which a reasonable inference of intent may be drawn,
or which is inconsistent with any other theory than
that he intended a dedication.

Dedication and reservation. The dedicator may impose
reasonable conditions, restrictions and limitations,
and compliance therewith is essential unless waived.
Dedicator may reserve a new right in himself by way
of implied grant and may include rights personal or
rights appurtenant to the land. At common law, a
reservation in a dedication is not perpetual.
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Re: Does dedicating a work in the mss relinquish ownership?

Postby Anders Hedelin » Sun Jun 30, 2019 11:57 am

Reading law texts takes an incredible amount of patience...
In the country where I live (Sweden) I would ask my questions to the most used copyright organization for music (STIM).
Could this be something similar in USA?
https://www.copyright.gov
If not, surely someone could direct you to the appropriate organization.
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Re: Does dedicating a work in the mss relinquish ownership?

Postby N Grossingink » Sun Jun 30, 2019 5:53 pm

There are commissions and then there are commissions.

In 1930, Paul Hindemith received a letter from the American patroness of music Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, offering to commission a work. Hindemith, who could be a little snotty at times, replied that he was against the whole idea of commissioning works as it seemed too upper class and capitalistic. He added, "…and besides, my fee would have to be $10,000 which I assume you would find offputting".

A short time later, Hindemith received a letter from Mrs. Coolidge. Inside was a check for $10,000. In due course, Mrs. Coolidge received the score for Konzertmusik for Piano, Brass and Harps.

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Re: Does dedicating a work in the mss relinquish ownership?

Postby motet » Sun Jun 30, 2019 6:16 pm

She commissioned pieces from most of the major composers of the day, including Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Bartok, and Webern. I don't think she's the copyright holder, though. :D
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Re: Does dedicating a work in the mss relinquish ownership?

Postby miker » Sun Jun 30, 2019 7:02 pm

Just like I’ve always said: whether you’re rich or poor, it’s nice to have money.
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Re: Does dedicating a work in the mss relinquish ownership?

Postby Anders Hedelin » Sun Jun 30, 2019 8:24 pm

Paul Wittgenstein commissioned the concerto for the left hand by Ravel. As he had paid for it he considered it his property for life, and even made changes in the score to his own liking, which of course made Ravel furious.
I don't think Wittgenstein was right about that, but if you have doubts, please ask a copyright organization. It doesn't seem like anyone here is an expert on copyright law. I'm certainly not one.
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Re: Does dedicating a work in the mss relinquish ownership?

Postby Michel R E » Sun Jun 30, 2019 10:34 pm

Anders Hedelin wrote:Paul Wittgenstein commissioned the concerto for the left hand by Ravel. As he had paid for it he considered it his property for life, and even made changes in the score to his own liking, which of course made Ravel furious.
I don't think Wittgenstein was right about that, but if you have doubts, please ask a copyright organization. It doesn't seem like anyone here is an expert on copyright law. I'm certainly not one.


Actually, he's gotten the most factual and correct answer he's ever going to get: a "dedication" infers absolutely no change in ownership of copyright, which always remains with the composer.

The Wittgenstein example you cite is a very different type of example, it is one of a paid commission.
Wittgenstein was, of course, completely wrong in believing that having commissioned the work he could therefore consider it "his property". It was not.

Copyright law for concert pieces is quite simple: commission a work and get the work for performance. Period. You can make arrangements for exclusive permission to perform it for a set amount of time (the most common being "exclusive rights to perform for the first year), but nothing is automatic. It must be included in the contract.

(and for those who are interested, UNLESS IT IS STIPULATED IN THE CONTRACT, the commissioning organization must pay for the score and orchestral materials - WHICH REMAIN PROPERTY OF THE COMPOSER, and must be returned to the composer after the performance.)

Which brings me back to the dedication, which is a COMPLETELY different issue.
A work can be dedicated to a dead individual. That deceased person is incapable of assuming any sort of rights from the work.
A work can be dedicated to an abstract ideal, for example "to world peace". A concept is incapable of assuming rights.

A dedication is legally nothing more than a symbolic gesture, which bears absolutely no rights, no transference of ownership, nothing.
A composer is free to remove a dedication from a work at any time.
This last fact should be proof enough that a dedication confers no legal rights on the dedicatee.
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Re: Does dedicating a work in the mss relinquish ownership?

Postby motet » Sun Jun 30, 2019 10:55 pm

Stravinsky dedicated the Symphony of Psalms "to the glory of God."

The Black's Law quote above I think refers to dedicating something to the public domain, not writing a dedication to a person.

Merriam-Webster says of "dedicate," by the way, "3. to inscribe or address by way of compliment: 'dedicated a book to a friend.'".
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Re: Does dedicating a work in the mss relinquish ownership?

Postby Djard » Mon Jul 01, 2019 2:54 am

Interesting that a dedication can be withdrawn, intimating that maybe the piece could be dedicated again to someone or something else, though perhaps at the risk of appearing wishy-washy. Anyone know of a work rededicated?
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Re: Does dedicating a work in the mss relinquish ownership?

Postby motet » Mon Jul 01, 2019 3:51 am

The Eroica! (Or at least de-dedicated.)
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Re: Does dedicating a work in the mss relinquish ownership?

Postby Anders Hedelin » Mon Jul 01, 2019 5:27 am

Sibelius originally dedicated his Violin concerto to the German violinist Willy Burmester, who never had the opportunity to perform it. It was later re-dedicated to the Hungarian "wunderkind" Ferenc von Vecsey.
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Re: Does dedicating a work in the mss relinquish ownership?

Postby Djard » Tue Jul 02, 2019 2:31 am

I think I will dedicate my next work to everyone.
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Re: Does dedicating a work in the mss relinquish ownership?

Postby Michel R E » Tue Jul 02, 2019 4:22 pm

motet wrote:The Eroica! (Or at least de-dedicated.)


would that make it "undicated"? or maybe "dead-icated"?
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Re: Does dedicating a work in the mss relinquish ownership?

Postby Anders Hedelin » Tue Jul 02, 2019 4:29 pm

Certainly not dead-icated as Napoleon - the original dedicatee - was still in rude health. Too rude for Beethoven's taste.
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Re: Does dedicating a work in the mss relinquish ownership?

Postby MikeHalloran » Thu Jul 04, 2019 3:27 am

motet wrote:The Eroica! (Or at least de-dedicated.)

You beat me to the punch.

Back OT, sorta’ kinda’

Will somebody please look up Work for hire? It is quite possible for a commission to fall into that category. It’s not unusual at all—advertising jingles are a good example and film scores used to be. However, this will be expressly defined in a contact. No Work for hire? The Copyright belongs to the creators of the work and their publisher representatives. The rules are different pre/post 1/1/1978 but the principles are the same.

The Copyright law has conditions and penalties for publishing without filing the proper certificates (Form PA-Published in the US). This is what that Dedicated to the public.. jargon is all about. The OP has completely misunderstood a flowery, somewhat archaic legal opinion. Again, the details changed 1/1/78 but the principles did not.

I don’t ever discuss my day job online and am not doing it now—perhaps when I retire. Neither am I an attorney but I play in this sandbox.

If you need an attorney, get one. Legal advice on message boards is worthless.

Here are some good Music Business Books. All are written by attorneys. The best thing is that, having read these, one gets a clear idea of what can be done by the musician & songwriter (quite a lot!) and when a person needs legal advice. In that case, having read up saves money by knowing the questions to ask.

In Order:

This is considered the Bible—I’d wait till the 10th edition but sometimes Amazon will have older ed. used and cheap.

All You Need to Know About the Music Business: Ninth Edition Hardcover by Donald S. Passman  November 10, 2015
http://www.amazon.com/Need-Know-About-Music-Business/dp/1501104896
Preorder for the 10th Edition (Oct. 2019)
https://www.amazon.com/Need-Know-About-Music-Business/dp/1501122185/ref=dp_ob_image_bk

I have the 7th edition; this was released 6 months ago. The Brabecs used to be attorneys for ASCAP. They can be reached on LinkedIn and will often answer questions.

Music Money and Success 8th Edition: The Insider's Guide to Making Money in the Music Business Paperback
by Jeffrey Brabec (Author) , Todd Brabec (Author)
https://www.amazon.com/Music-Money-Success-8th-Insiders/dp/1787601382


It’s getting a little dated but still my favorite — at least till the 10th ed. of Don Passman’s book is released. This is the scary one but it tells you how the industry really works. Great companion to either of the above or both.

What They'll Never Tell You About the Music Business, Third Edition: The Complete Guide for Musicians, Songwriters, Producers, Managers, Industry Executives, Attorneys, Investors, and Accountants Paperback by Peter M. Thall (Author) August 2016.
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1607749742/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s02?ie=UTF8&psc=1
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Re: Does dedicating a work in the mss relinquish ownership?

Postby Ian Stewart » Fri Jul 05, 2019 6:56 am

The Merriam Webster Dictionary lost its reputation for being a good dictionary decades ago, it's living off a past reputation. The American Heritage Dictionary is much better and the Oxford English Dictionary is the authoritative one.
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Re: Does dedicating a work in the mss relinquish ownership?

Postby motet » Fri Jul 05, 2019 4:05 pm

Ian Stewart wrote:The Merriam Webster Dictionary lost its reputation for being a good dictionary decades ago, it's living off a past reputation. The American Heritage Dictionary is much better and the Oxford English Dictionary is the authoritative one.


A dictionary is not going to solve legal questions regardless.

The O.P. originally cited "Webster's", which could be just about anything. ("Webster's" is not a trade mark and several dictionaries bear that name.) Merriam-Webster certainly doesn't define a written work as "technically belonging to the dedicatee." I suspect he misunderstood whatever it is he read.

As for Merriam-Webster losing its reputation, you're probably thinking of the controversy which arose when Merriam-Webster put out a new unabridged in the 1960's. The dictionary was seen at the time by some as "too permissive," since it decided to take the approach of describing the way the language was being used rather than prescribing what correct usage is.

Per Wikipedia, "James Parton, the publisher (and co-owner) of the history magazine American Heritage, was appalled by the permissiveness of Webster's Third, published in 1961, and tried to buy the G. and C. Merriam Company so he could undo the changes. When that failed, he contracted with Houghton to publish a new dictionary. The AHD was edited by William Morris and relied on a usage panel of 105 writers, speakers, and eminent persons chosen for their well-known conservatism in the use of language. However, Morris made inconsistent use of the panels, often ignoring their advice and inserting his own opinions."

Most linguists now accept the descriptivist approach as reflecting how language changes and evolves. Merriam-Webster remains the American standard dictionary. The American Heritage Dictionary (which as become more descriptivist in later editions) is a fine dictionary, too. The OED is the ultimate descriptivist dictionary, illustrating usage solely through citations from printed literature.
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Re: Does dedicating a work in the mss relinquish ownership?

Postby MikeHalloran » Fri Jul 05, 2019 10:06 pm

All “Webster’s” means is that the Americanized spellings for some words are used as laid out by Noah Webster as opposed by the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

Merriam-Webster is a publisher of a “Webster’s” dictionary and, though well respected, it is one of many. The Merriam Brothers’ company bought the rights to the 1841 edition of Noah Webster’s dictionary from his heirs.
https://www.merriam-webster.com/about-us/americas-first-dictionary

A dictionary is not going to solve legal questions regardless.

The O.P. originally cited "Webster's", which could be just about anything. ("Webster's" is not a trade mark and several dictionaries bear that name.) Merriam-Webster certainly doesn't define a written work as "technically belonging to the dedicatee." I suspect he misunderstood whatever it is he read.


Exactly
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Re: Does dedicating a work in the mss relinquish ownership?

Postby Djard » Sat Jul 06, 2019 4:23 am

Mike, I don't think I misunderstood the online dictionary's tertiary meaning of 'dedicated to' as "belonging to." But that statement did get me wondering how other composers viewed a dedicated work. I never intended to assert that dedication equates with relinquishing ownership. My apology for not being clear.
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Re: Does dedicating a work in the mss relinquish ownership?

Postby Anders Hedelin » Sat Jul 06, 2019 1:47 pm

This rather detailed discussion has strengthened me in my belief that a contact with a copyright organization is the best way to get proper, digestible info. Maybe I'm just lazy. In that field, at least.
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