Mudcat Café message #165555 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #17171   Message #165555
Posted By: lamarca
19-Jan-00 - 09:25 PM
Thread Name: Nic Jones
Subject: RE: Nic Jones
This is my understanding of the Paul Simon/Martin Carthy Scarborough Fair controversy - probably our UK contributors have more detail (and/or accuracy):

In the mid-60's, Paul Simon went over to spend some time in England. During that time he shared a house and/or hung out with English guitarists Davey Graham and Martin Carthy, among others. Carthy was working on his early albums for Topic, and had worked out a stunning guitar arrangement for "Scarborough Fair", a variant of the traditional Child ballad #2, "The Elfin Knight". Simon learned Carthy's arrangement from him, almost note for note.

When he got back to the USA, Simon took Carthy's guitar arrangement and word set for "Scarborough Fair", added a second song of his own composing ("Canticle") and released the whole work, copyright Paul Simon, without crediting Carthy's arrangement. He also recorded Davey Graham's "Angi" on the same album, giving Graham credit for Graham's original composition. If you want to give Simon the benefit of the doubt, maybe he thought that since "Scarborough Fair" was a traditional song, he didn't have to credit Carthy - but seeing as he lifted Carthy's non-traditional guitar arrangement, that doesn't excuse him, in my mind...

It all gets back to issues of copyright on traditional or public domain material - when is a particular arrangement or rendition unique enough to deserve a copyright in the eyes of the legal system? Not being a lawyer, I can't answer that - but I feel that artists like Martin Carthy who develop particular musical arrangements of traditional material deserve the right to copyright protect their creative additions. You can't (or shouldn't) be able to copyright a ballad that's been existant since the 1500's or before, but if you orchestrate it, or write a novel accompaniment, or score it for 73-voice choir, you should be able to copyright your arrangement. Simon had every right to copyright "Scarborough Fair/Canticle" as a new work interweaving the two songs, but I think that he owes something to Carthy for using his guitar part.