Painting music score onto a sign

Copyright matters affecting music and musicians.
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Painting music score onto a sign

Post by Jadedmandarin »

Hi there,

I'm new to this forum and joined to ask about copyright for musical score in the hope that someone can point me in the right direction.

The story is, that I recently made a gift for someone which consisted of a small wooden sign onto which I have hand painted some music score from a current pop song. It is only 8 bars of the vocal melody line and contains no lyrics and is simplified, making it purely an aesthetic piece rather than something that could accurately be performed with.

I am now thinking about making more and selling them but I can't find out if this would be an infringement of copyright or not. I have looked online and the only similar things I can find are people selling framed prints of pop songs and wooden signs with song lyrics painted on them. None of these sellers mention anything about licences or copyright issues but as their products feature mainstream music and lyrics from the last 50 years, surely all would be subject to copyright laws?

Can anyone help me get a clearer idea of whether or not I could sell my musical score signs?
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Post by AndyJ »

Hi Jade,

Reproducing part of the score of a song has the potential to infringe if the song is still in copyright. There are no hard and fast rules about how much would amount to 'too much'. In theory it has to be a substantial part of the song before it counts as infringement, but as I guess you are reproducing a recognisable part of the tune, then that increases the chance it could be a substantial part. For some popular music, I wouldn't be surprised to hear that eight bars encompassed the entire song, just endlessly repeated. But perhaps I'm being too cynical. The issue has been made more complicated in recent times because of the large amount of sampling which goes on. This has meant that even fairly banal percussion parts have been found infringing when they are lifted from one song and used in a loop in another.

There is a new exception to copyright, for the purposes of quotation, which applies to musical works. I would thing that what you want to do fits under the heading of quotation, but it would only be legal if you credit the song-writer or composer. As I have said several times on these forums, we have no idea how the courts will treat this new quotation exception, so I really can't say if relying on it will definitely keep you out of trouble.

Since these items are purely decorative, does it actually have to be the correct notation? If you effectively created a different tune, or indeed a completely unmusical set of notes, would that actually matter to your potential buyers?
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007
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