Conductor says orchestras and musicians suffer from copyright ruling

Posted on: May 31, 2011

In Sunday’s (5/29) Chronicle of Higher Education, Marc Parry reports from Denver, “When Lawrence Golan picks up his baton here at the University of Denver, the musicians in his student orchestra see a genial conductor who corrects their mistakes without raising his voice in frustration. Yet Mr. Golan is frustrated, not with the musicians, but with a copyright law that does them harm. For 10 years, the music professor has been quietly waging a legal campaign to overturn the statute, which makes it impossibly expensive for smaller orchestras to play certain pieces of music. Now the case is heading to the U.S. Supreme Court. … The conductor’s fight centers on the concept of the public domain, which scholars depend on for teaching and research. … The dispute that led to Golan v. Holder dates to 1994, when Congress passed a law that moved vast amounts of material from the public domain back behind the firewall of copyright protection. … Congress approved the recopyrighting, limited to foreign works, to align U.S. policy with international copyright treaties. … Mr. Golan’s university ensemble gets only about $4,000 to rent and buy music each year. That means it can perform some copyrighted works but must rely on the public domain for about 80 percent of its repertoire. … when a pianist wanted to audition [for a concerto competition] with a piano concerto by Prokofiev, a Russian composer who died in 1953, Mr. Golan was forced to tell her no.”

Posted May 31, 2011