Transforming Public Domain into copyright

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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PeterMillett
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Transforming Public Domain into copyright

Post by PeterMillett » Tue Feb 14, 2017 10:19 am

While posting a thread on the music copyright forum a separate question popped into my mind - can you transform Public Domain material into copyright if you are not adding anything new to it? (Perhaps you are only rearranging the original PD content or shortening it.?)

Example: If Churchill's famous speech was truncated, does that newer, shorter arrangement become copyright protected because of its assembly?

1.ORIGINAL:
We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

2.NEW VERSION:

We shall go on to the end with growing confidence. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall never surrender. in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

(Is this now under copyright?)


Cheers

Pete

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Tue Feb 14, 2017 7:38 pm

Hi Pete

The yardstick for determining whether something gains copyright protection is whether it is original or not. In this context that means whether it originates from the spirit of the author (from the French doctrine of l'esprit d'auteur) and has not been copied. In general, editorial changes of the sort you have described, would not normally be enough.

However there is a case which exemplifies the situation you describe. It's know as Hyperion Records v Sawkins. The link is to the Court of Appeal judgment which upheld the High Court's finding that Dr Lionel Sawkins had added sufficient original material to gain copyright in his arrangement of long out of copyright musical works by the French composer Michel-Richard de Lalande (1657 – 1726).
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

PeterMillett
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Post by PeterMillett » Wed Feb 15, 2017 11:19 pm

Cheers Andy.

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