Mudcat Café message #588571 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #38580   Message #588571
Posted By: kytrad (Jean Ritchie)
08-Nov-01 - 06:27 PM
Thread Name: Jean Ritchie Books & Recordings
Subject: RE: Jean Ritchie Books & Recordings
Joe, Going back up to your comments on the CELEBRATION OF LIFE songs- that they're mostly credited to me, but are likely my versions of old songs. This is true for many of them, and this is why. In the late '50s and '60s, the folk revival groups were recording old songs and their record companies were copyrighting everything (e.g. the Ritchie version of, "Shady Grove," from my father, was credited as having been written by Guard/Reynolds/Shane, and I think, "Battle Hymn of the Republic" authorship and composition was credited to the Weavers!). A bit later, Bob Dylan recorded, "Masters of War," using the Ritchie tune of, "Fair Nottamun Town." After I got these matters settled, fairly amicably, I asked the Library of Congress folks if our family variants of old songs could/should be copyrighted as a protective move- to keep sources clear, for scholars and researchers and all who might be interested. The contract office advised me that any song that had been added to, or changed enough, from its older form, could be copyrighted. Now, we Ritchies, if separated for a month or so, would all sing the same song a bit differently- we made changes when we forgot words, some changed melodies to suit our varying ranges, etc. So we figured our songs qualified.

I probably would not do this today, but in those times, everyone was scrambling for material, and ethics were going out the window, so, for the next thirty or so years, I had "protective copyrights" on most of our family repertoire. Over the years, I have never asked for royalties from folks who couldn't afford to pay, or who just felt they shouldn't pay; I required only that the copyright notice, telling the source of the song, would be honored. I have my own company, Geordie Music Publishing Co., who are instructed to offer lower than statutory rates (whether or not they are requested) to small labels or to people producing their own recordings.

This has worked out very well, and I hope people understand that it's certainly not a matter of greed or possessiveness (very little money comes in from traditional material), but more a matter of keeping the song geneologies less tangled. Jean