Can I arrange copyrighted music, for piano for instance, and have the sheet music available for free on my website? 5 Answers as of March 05, 2014

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DunlapWeaver PLLC
DunlapWeaver PLLC | David Ludwig
Assuming you are not the owner of the original work, a new arrangement of music copyrighted by someone else is considered a "derivative work," which is defined as "a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted." The right to make derivative works is one of the rights protected under the copyright laws. This means that, just as you cannot make copies of someone else's song without permission, you cannot make derivative works such as adaptations without their permission. In the case of a derivative work, you technically own the rights to the new features that you added to the work, but if you didn't have permission to make the derivative work in the first place, the adaptation itself is infringing, and posting it online would also be infringing.
Answer Applies to: Virginia
Replied: 3/5/2014
Sebby Law Office
Sebby Law Office | Jayne Sebby
No. Unless the work was composed prior to the 1920, it's probably still protected under copyright law. Making the work available on a website (for free or for a charge, in the original format or with your arrangement) can only be done with the copyright owner's written permission.
Answer Applies to: Nebraska
Replied: 3/4/2014
Freeborn Law Offices, P.S.
Freeborn Law Offices, P.S. | Steve Freeborn
Not it its' been copyrighted.
Answer Applies to: Washington
Replied: 3/4/2014
Lawyer for Independent Media
Lawyer for Independent Media | Sue Basko
You might be able to do that, but you would need permission from the publisher and to work out a payment scheme. Your new arrangement will likely be a derivative work, and you will need permission to create that, and then permission to sell the copies. If the publisher agrees, they will likely charge you an amount for each copy sold, or might sell a bulk amount in advance and leave it up to you to sell that many. Or they might say no. People usually make new arrangements of works that are in the public domain, such as very songs. That way, they do not need permission.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 3/4/2014
Hugan Law | Christopher Hugan
Probably not. Unless the composition is in the public domain, the owner of the copyright would have to give you permission. Owning a copyright entitles one to control a bundle of rights including copying, distribution, and creation of derivative works. Offering it for free does not exempt someone from getting permission from the owner.
Answer Applies to: Tennessee
Replied: 3/4/2014
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