Another copyright query?

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Merseysider
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Another copyright query?

Post by Merseysider » Thu Jul 14, 2005 10:29 pm

Last year I set Psalm 83(84) How Lovely Is Your Dwelling Place. It's gone down quite well in our community and has been used in several other parishes – it's also been requested for quite a few funerals. So I thought I'd publish it myself. I emailed HarperCollins, asking for permission to use the Grail translation, explaining it would be in a small imprint and mostly for local circulation.

The answer came back as a resounding "NO", basically on two counts:
1) They said I must use the whole psalm. I have used Vv 1-4, and v10 (as laid out in the lectionary). This, in particular, ruled out the possibility.
2) They also objected to the repetition of words in a couple of the verse: eg "One day within your courts, within in your courts..." and "Forever singing praise, singing praise..."

I'm looking at the possibility of some heavy paraphrasing but as the music was written for the words, this is far from straightforward. Anyway, I'm not a poet. And I'm wondering (and I think these questions have been raised on here before):
1) how many words do you have to change before the text can be said to be not the Grail translation.
2) As the first line of both Grail and "The Psalms, a new translation for worship" are, in this case, identical, whose translation am I using?
3) When some phrases/sentences are embedded in our minds through usage (eg: "One day within your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere") how can we escape them to avoid this copyright nightmare?

Anyone else had similar problems?
Anyone have any solutions?

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Re: Another copyright query?

Post by dunstan » Fri Jul 15, 2005 8:45 am

Merseysider wrote:1) how many words do you have to change before the text can be said to be not the Grail translation.
2) As the first line of both Grail and "The Psalms, a new translation for worship" are, in this case, identical, whose translation am I using?
3) When some phrases/sentences are embedded in our minds through usage (eg: "One day within your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere") how can we escape them to avoid this copyright nightmare?


IANAL, but to answer your points to the best of my understanding:
1) if you start from the Grail translation and change it then yours is a derived work, so you still need their permission, however much it is changed. You would have a copyright on the new derived work, but it would also be subject to theirs.
2) If "The Psalms ..." is a completely freestanding translation then the intersection with the Grail translation is immaterial - you are subject to their copyright. If the latin can only be translated in one sensible way, then the Grail have not made a significant creative step.
3) It's still subject to their copyright.
It's not a generation gap, it's a taste gap.

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Post by Merseysider » Fri Jul 15, 2005 9:22 am

Thanks for that Dunstan.
Useful information.
Although still a tad miffed with HarperCollins.
First time I've written anything people have really wanted to use and I can't let them! Grrrrrrrrrr!

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IANAL

Post by VML » Fri Jul 15, 2005 10:14 am

IANAL : I am not a lawyer..

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Post by ssgcgs » Fri Jul 15, 2005 1:21 pm

1) They said I must use the whole psalm. I have used Vv 1-4, and v10 (as laid out in the lectionary). This, in particular, ruled out the possibility.

I am utterly perplexed by this. How did the abridged versions of the Psalms appear in the Lectionary/Missal at all?

There are some lovely and familiar turns of phrase in the Grail translation, but there are also some incredibly clumsy ones.

Has the Liturgy Office made any headway over this Grail copyright problem recently?

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Post by Merseysider » Fri Jul 15, 2005 3:03 pm

ssgcgs wrote: I am utterly perplexed by this. How did the abridged versions of the Psalms appear in the Lectionary/Missal at all?


I presume the same way it was decided to use particular verses from other books for specific occasions. And it does work.

Take the example given, Psalm 83 (84). The first few lines are about the beauty and serenity of living in the house of the Lord, perfect for a church dedication. But then the psalm changes and speaks about people going forth through the Bitter Valley.

Also, if we sang every verse of a particular psalm, there would be an imbalance between the sung/spoken parts of the Liturgy of the Word: the few sentences of the Old Testament reading might take 30-45 seconds to read whereas the whole of a psalm could take several minutes. (Sorry, if this is all clumsy, the heat is getting to me.)

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Bitter valley

Post by VML » Fri Jul 15, 2005 9:57 pm

I find it hard to understand how anyone can copyright scripture. OK, there's graphic copyright, and the translater is worthy of his fee, but beyond that how can it be justified?
I thought I'd go back to Douay to see if paraphrasing that might work: In there the 'Bitter Valley' is 'the vale of tears.' Rather apt in the circumstances. :roll:

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Re: Another copyright query?

Post by mcb » Mon Jul 18, 2005 11:49 pm

Merseysider wrote:The answer came back as a resounding "NO", basically on two counts:
1) They said I must use the whole psalm. I have used Vv 1-4, and v10 (as laid out in the lectionary). This, in particular, ruled out the possibility.
2) They also objected to the repetition of words in a couple of the verse: eg "One day within your courts, within in your courts..." and "Forever singing praise, singing praise..."

This is almost unbelievable and utterly outrageous! How can Grail versions of the Psalms appear in the Lectionary if the half-wits in the Harper Collins legal department won't allow them to be cited except in full? I wonder whether it might be worth politely getting back to them and asking whether they might pass the query on to someone who actually understands it? And not allowing those repetitions? Polite words fail me. If Harper Collins had held the copyright for the King James version, presumably Mr Handel would have been refused permission to publish Messiah, on the grounds that his librettist repeated the word Hallelujah! Harper Collins have dealt with Merseysider's request as if they had no interest in or knowledge of the fact that words are sometimes set to music. And this in connection with the Psalms! Harper Collins truly seem unfit to administer something they evidently have so little understanding of.

I wonder whether they get away with this ludicrous behaviour because not enough of us tell them how absurd it is? Sounds like something over which the Liturgy Office should be expressing outrage on our behalf.

M.

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Post by Merseysider » Tue Jul 19, 2005 5:45 am

When I first made the request to HC I queried their permissions policy which stated that texts "must not be abridged, expanded or modified". I explained that the nature of psalm singing meant that only two or three verses may be used or that one particular phrase may be repeated several
times. I asked for clarification. The reply came:

"If you intend to omit words from verses, or even whole verses themselves from the psalms, this is...problematic. As this would amount to adapting the work from its original form I am afraid we cannot grant you permission to do this."

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Psalm Songs

Post by ssgcgs » Tue Jul 19, 2005 9:16 am

If you look at the setting of the Ascension Day Responsorial Psalm in Psalm Songs 2 (Ed. Ogden and Smith, pub. Cassell) you will find the abridged version of Psalm 46, as in the lectionary, and with certain phrases repeated within the verses. The text is reprinted with the permission of A P Watt Ltd on behalf of The Grail (England) and GIA Publications, Inc. from The Psalms: A New Translation published by HarperCollins.

Both of the actions above have been proscribed, according to advice given to Merseysider - ludicrous!

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Post by Martin Foster » Wed Jul 20, 2005 12:36 pm

Dear All

I think a little bit of understanding is called for.

People seem to be surprised that someone working for a large publisher which publishes a wide range of books does not understand the relationship between the Grail Psalter, for which they administer (but do not own) the copyright and the Lectionary.

I understand that the query has been passed on to the Bible Department for clarification.

To clarify one point it has long been the tradition of the Church to be selective in the verses it uses from scripture. The choice of psalm verses for the responsorial psalm are set in the Ordo Lectionum Missae – the editio typica of the Lectionary (in the same way as the Missale Romanum is for the Missal) but what is different is that the Ordo is primarily a collection of references.

Part of people’s outrage seemed to be by what authority can they say what we can and cannot do. To move the conversation forward what reasons might there be for changing the text of a psalm by a composer and are they justified?

Martin
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Post by mcb » Wed Jul 20, 2005 2:40 pm

Martin Foster wrote:To clarify one point it has long been the tradition of the Church to be selective in the verses it uses from scripture.

Actually I think we all understood this. (Merseysider misunderstood ssgcgs's "How?", that's all.)

Martin Foster wrote:To move the conversation forward what reasons might there be for changing the text of a psalm by a composer and are they justified?

Perhaps one needs to be careful with the word changing here. It wouldn't do to elevate the words of the Grail translation (or any other) to immutable sacred formulas, merely by virtue of their approval for liturgical use by the English-speaking bishops. Effective translation of the Hebrew originals can take many forms, and some of these are likely to be more inherently suitable for setting to music than others.

To take a couple of concrete instances: I've been working lately on a setting of Psalm 85(86) - it's my homework in preparation for the SSG Summer School Composers' Workshop. One of the verses, in the Grail version, has attend to the sound of my voice. This seems to my ear a little cumbersome, especially by Grail standards. I've gone for Listen to my voice which to my mind captures the meaning adequately while putting it in a plainer and more plaintive form. Listen to the sound of my voice is perhaps more unwieldy, and none of these versions seems conspicuously closer than the others to the Vulgate's et intende voci deprecationis meae. (I'm afraid I don't speak Hebrew!)

In another place the Grail version has But you, God of mercy and compassion. For singability, at least in a melody which has four accents in (it's a four-bar phrase) it works nicely to repeat some of the words: But you, God of mercy, God of compassion. Again no harm is done to the meaning, and in so far as it leads to an effective melding of words and melody, the reduplication serves a positive purpose.

Granted, not every adaptation of this kind will be equally deserving of approval; and I can readily appreciate the publisher's reluctance to countenance paraphrase. But minor reduplications, and the ellipsis of verses, are surely another, simpler matter?

M.

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Post by Martin Foster » Mon Jul 25, 2005 9:28 am

I would not want people to think there are no grounds for changing the text of say the responsorial psalm but I do think people should know why they are doing it and the decision be based on some principles. Any change needs to be balanced with the risk of reducing the congregation’s familiarity with a canonical text. Though I agree with MCB about the danger of immutable sacred formulas we cannot avoid the fact that it is the Grail psalter which is used in our liturgical books and therefore has a special place not only liturgically but also in catechesis and prayer.

Would it be fair to characterise MCB's 2 reasons as: I prefer this synonym to the word in the text and to adapt the text to fit the music.

Any more?

Martin
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Changing words

Post by VML » Mon Jul 25, 2005 12:54 pm

Not a psalm I know, but if I was setting the beatitudes I would choose to use 'blessed' rather than 'happy.' I wish I could understand how the happitudes came about, and I wince at every funeral where this passage is used.
V

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Post by contrabordun » Mon Jul 25, 2005 4:24 pm

Martin Foster wrote: to adapt the text to fit the music

Of course, if the original translators had perhaps considered the possibility that somebody might actually want to sing the occasional Psalm, and had put a bit more effort into considerations of meter and so on, the problem might never have arisen in the first place.

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