Last night (well, tonight – I haven’t got to bed yet!) was the first rehearsal for this year’s Christmas Concert for our Stake Choir.  While there I heard about an extremely bizarre anecdote.  Last year, we performed ‘O Holy Night’.  The version we have music for only as the first 2 verses for some reason.  During rehearsals the director decided that after the second chorus, we’d repeat the first to finish.  So that’s what we did in the concerts.  After one of them, a former director of the choir (incidentally the previous Stake President) was approached by a gentleman who asked who had given us permission to change the song.  The man (who is supposedly in the music business) then claimed that by repeating the chorus we had rearranged the piece and thus infringed copyright.  The sum result of this conversation is that the choir director now refuses to do the same this year in order to not cause trouble.

All of which I find quite incredible.  My question is: whose copyright is being infringed and how?It can’t be the composer’s, who died over 100 years ago.  I don’t know who did the arrangement, as I don’t believe the sheet music says, but I’ll check that when I see it again.  The sheet music itself is copyright 1901, but claimed by a company, not a person, which raises another question: How long does such a copyright last? It’s not like you can use the author’s life+70 year formula as companies neither live nor die.

What I really don’t get is why repeating a chorus where it’s not explicitly written would be breach of copyright anyway even if it was still in force.  I guess that’s why I’m not a solicitor…