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Legality of the Real Book

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by TroyK, Jan 29, 2006.


  1. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    I'm hoping we can get an intelligent and informed discussion of the legality/illegality of the Berklee Real Book. Any lawyers on the board? I'm not one, but I have a few thoughts that I'd love to get educated opinions on.

    First, let me say, this is intended to be kind of an acadamic discussion. I think we've covered pretty thoroughly that The Real Book is bad, inaccuarate, evil, should be burned, we'll all better off learning and internalizing the changes, etc. I'm not trying to dispute that, it's really a legal opinion that I'm after.

    Here's my thought: If someone creates a book of sheet music without paying for the rights to the owners of said music, binds it and sells it in a music store or on EBay or whatever. I think that's pretty clearly a violation of something (copywrite, trademark, something). No disputing that.

    However, if we take the lore of the Real Book at face value. Some Berklee students or teachers transcribed a bunch of standards. Then they maybe combined each other's transcriptions and it started getting passed around. So far, that sounds O.K.. College students or anyone can make notes of lectures, research or whatever and share them with each other. So if that's the real origin of the book, it didn't start life as illegal in my mind. My well worn copy was given to me and I've passed it along. I'm still not seeing a crime there, since there was no commercial product. I don't think that possessing a Real Book violates a law. If the Real Book was simply someone's notes being passed around for free, I think it's legal.

    Just like anything else, someone's notes on something in not the best source for people who really want to learn it. They should do their own research or if they need sheet music, should look to a licensed, edited and fact checked version. However, if a flawed representation of one person's opinion came to you for free. I don't see that as a crime. Maybe just a sloppy short cut.

    Does that make sense to someone in actually knows what they are talking about?

    Now, I know that The Real Book does have a history of being sold under the counter a music stores, which I agree should have those stores closed down. I have met people (as have many of you) who have written songs in the book and could use the royalities, so I'm not advocating and I see the harm it does on many levels.

    But, is owning a copy illegal? Is photocopying it illegal, since the "author" of that transcrition has no legal rights to it, I'm certainly not violating his rights. Is one person giving a copy to another person illegal? If so, what law does it violate?

    Just curious. I constantly hear it referred to as illegal and I'm a bit of a stickler for accuracy on statements like this sometime.

    Anyone want to play along?

    Troy
     
  2. I've owned Real Books, usu. bought for about $30 from a guy with a suitcase making the rounds of the college music departments (never at a music store). It really didn't occur to me that it might be illegal til later in life. Now I understand that there is a CD floating around with PDFs of about a half-dozen legal and illegal fake books. I'm pretty sure that its illegal to sell.

    If folks have conscience pangs about buying them, they'd be happy to know that Hal Leonard is now publishing a legal Real Book. It looks, smells and tastes just the the "real" Real Book except they've fixed up some of the changes and taken out some of the lesser-played tunes (face it, when was the last time someone called "Hotel Hello" or "Gen. Mojo's Well-Laid Plan" at a jam session?).
     
  3. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Reproduction of proprietary copyrighted material without permission of the copyright holder is theft and a violation of copyright law. You don't have to be a lawyer to figure that out.

    Let's take Key's proposition at face value and say that the original, educational-swap compilers of TRB were working strictly for private educational use. That probably did not violate copyright laws. Let's give more credit than is due and assume that covers the 1st "edition" completely. But they went past that to sell the 2d edition and on to the 5th ed that most of us bought under the counter. At that moment they were pirates and thieves -- somebody made A LOT of money off it, folks. All of us who paid for it are equally culpable morally and, FWIW, copyright violators at law.

    Call me a jerk if you want, but I believe that composers are artists who have earned the support of us musicians. At the minimum, the deserve the protection the law provides.
     
  4. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Ontario
    The whole issue of legality comes into play when it goes beyond just giving it away. Also, I'm pretty sure the creation, posession, and sharing of photocopied materials (or scanned, as in the case of the infamous CD we're all familiar with) in regards to sheet music is indeed illegal.


    Interesting note on legality of transcribed music...the MPA had a fit not to long ago and has started to target tablature sites!
     
  5. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    Absolutely, no doubt about it.

    As for the CD of scanned Chuck Sher and Hal Lenord books, no question that is a clear copywrite law violation.

    I'm struggling, though on how tab sites are illegal. Same concept as the one I raised on TRB. If some guy figures out the guitar lick at the beginning of some Rush Song (or so he thinks) and posts a tab transcription of it on a blog for people to comment on, critique or play in their basements...I don't see that as a violation of any copywrite law, as I understand them, which is admittedly limited.
     
  6. musicman5string

    musicman5string Banned

    Jan 17, 2006
    I remember the time I was on a gig and someone requested "Misty"; the guitarist didn't know it, so he opened his real book.
    Boy, that was the worst version of "Minority" anyone ever heard!

    :D
     
  7. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Ontario
    :D
     
  8. anonymous8547j7d7b

    anonymous8547j7d7b Guest

    Jul 1, 2005
    Just to throw one into the mix. I've been told (reliably) that various musicians (whose compositions are included in both legal & illegal books) have been asked for their opinion on the subject. A kind of consensus emerged that they wouldn't have earned half as much in royalties from folks recording their tunes if it hadn't been for the illegal Real Book. There was also the suggestion that some of these guys (being foresighted) had actually proof-read the odd tune.
     
  9. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Yeah but . . .

    Hal Leonard has proven that you can do the same job, act within the law, pay the composers AND charge less!

    The fact that "it worked out in the end" for some people is not an excuse to steal. Period.
     
  10. JayR

    JayR

    Nov 9, 2005
    Los Angeles, CA
    Yeah I lost my old tattered "shady" Real Book in a move, didnt know where to get a new one, then I'm looking at a local Borders and I see one on the shelf. Same damn thing, just with a little "copyright [whoever]" at the bottom and a little Hal Leanord stamp on the inside page. Who knew? I feel so much less rebellious now. And this one doesnt have Goodbye Pork Pie Hat. Which...which isnt okay with me. Because I really like that song. And I don't remember the changes. :(
     
  11. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Ontario
    +1 I don't own a "Real Book" (I do have a Hal Leonard "Real Jazz Book") but IIRC, the legal and accurate sixth edition Real Book costs significantly less than the photocopied error-ridden illegal fifth edition.

    For my high school graduation, I'm asking for 6th edition Real Books (vols 1, 2, and 3.) Looking forward to error-free charts at a reasonable price :).


    EDIT: Jay -- there are two Mingus fakebooks that I'm aware of. I own the "Mingus: More than a Play-A-Long," which has the heads, changes, et. all for I think 12 or so Mingus tunes in them. Some of it gets *sickly* hard (the head to "Reincarnation of a Lovebird" comes to mind here) but Goodbye Pork Pie Hat is one of the first tunes you'll see in the book. It also has accompaniment CDs recorded in trio format by members of the Mingus Big Band and Dynasty (Boris Kozlov on bass) and a second CD with a tenor player on it blowing changes and playing the heads. Irritatingly enough, I never did get the second CD with my copy.
     
  12. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    It's actually a fair bit different in terms of whats in there.

    My original point is kind of made by the fact that Hal Lenord was able to use that cover design, because it didn't actually belong to anyone.

    I was hoping we had a lawyer amongst us just because it's a curiousity.

    I did touch off the debate that I knew would insue when mention of the Real Book occurred, which I didn't intend.

    It's bad. It's in accurate. It's wrong. You should learn tunes from your own transcriptions and reputable charts and internalize them. I know. I agree.
     
  13. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Ontario
    I've heard that the 6th edition is missing a lot of bebop tunes or something to that effect.

    If you want a lawyer for this discussion, you could PM Mark Latimour from the BG side. Mind, Australian copyright laws may be different than the US.
     
  14. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    It's totally an academic curiousity for me. I have absolutely no reason to actually sort it out.
     
  15. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    San Francisco, CA
    FYI: Sam's our lawyer in these parts. And American to boot. He's pretty much dead on usually, IMO.
     
  16. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    Sam Sherry is a lawyer? Sam, is this true?
     
  17. Yeah, but we can't hold that against him.:)
     
  18. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    I don't hold it against him. It qualifies his statements from earlier.

    So, Sam, I don't know if you're game for this type of discussion, but I'm always talking about the legality of things with musicians and I posted this because I wondered what a qualified opinion would be.

    Someone brought up tab sites and I'm struggling with the infraction on that. I've wondered about the legality of podcasting and putting music clips on the web of local guys playing standards (like on this site, for example).

    I'm just curious about these things. I tend to be overly conservative about them because I like to avoid trouble. Friends usually insist that it is fine. Don't mean to make you work for free, just trying to educate myself a little.
     
  19. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    There are a bunch of lawyers on this site, including some very busy posters. Some are "out" here (like "The Jazz Lawyer") and others aren't. Our practices range from commercial to in-house corporate to Legal Aid. As far as I know I'm the only one to write on this thread so far.

    I have a commercial law practice. It's about 65% commercial disputes, collection, commercial litigation, collection, landlords and collection. Most of the collection is business-to-business stuff -- I'm not out there grinding for Mrs. Pliskrinsky's washing-machine for Sears. About 30% is small-business corporate -- buy, sell, form, contracts, new owners etc.

    In any event, I don't know lots about copyright law. I can't opine on the nuances of tab versus notation. My completely ignorant guess is that a work is a work and that changing the way it's encoded does not change the essential work. Look at it this way: If you took "The Old Man & The Sea" and wrote it, word for word, in Morse code it would still be the same tale, right? How does rendering a work in tab make it an essentially different piece of music which justifies not paying the composer for his or her art?

    OH YEAH -- the legalities & moralities of The Online Sampler: Personal, family & educational use is generally not a copyright violation. The Sampler is about educational use. Nobody makes a dime -- heck, it costs Damon to host it (and we thank him all the time).

    Hey, I gotta work. And as for you, like I tell my clients, "Stop talking to lawyers."
     
  20. Bob Rogers

    Bob Rogers Left is Right

    Feb 26, 2005
    Blacksburg, Virginia
    I'm a Professor not a Lawyer, but every few years I have to sit in a "Faculty Development Workshop" in order to get my computer upgrade. Always have to listen to a couple of hours of lawyerspeak on "fair use" of copyrights. There are lots of explanations on the web - all of them long - lots of conditions that have to be met. Pretty clear to me that the original Real Books are illegal even if they are used exclusively for teaching. Too much of the content of the work is being used and distributed to others. (You can transcribe a song for your personal use, just can't give it to someeone else.)