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What are the rules in making an arrangement from a poem which was copyrighted? and rules in arranging a song using a poem as lyrics and the poet was already dead?
Replies (5): Threaded | Chronological
on January 21, 2013 8:20pm
If the poem is under copyright, you need permission from the copyright holder. Whether the poet is dead or alive has no bearing on copyright; it depends on when the poem was created or first published. With very few exceptions, if created or first published after 1/1/1923, it is under copyright.
on January 22, 2013 7:09am
Have a read of Eric Whitacre's experiences writing music to someone else's poetry:
on January 22, 2013 11:30am
I suspect I've posted on this subject before, but it's worth mentioning again. I am NOT an expert and there's the standard "don't take this as law!" disclaimer attached...
I've found the best info at Cornell:
The US Copyright Office page:
Copyright is very, very squirrelly. Please remember that the 1923 rule applies only to works 1st registered in the US (or shortly thereafter.)  read this post: . foreign works are generally covered by their own laws.
As for sound recordings, it's even more complicated. 'Nuff said! 
I read Eric Whitacre's article on his copyright woes, as John recommended. Beware! Find someone very, very dead, like a couple of centuries ago, write your own or make friends with a poet. Now THERE'S a way to go. Find a living poet who'd like to work with you. Everyone wins!
on January 25, 2013 8:00am
I know of an even worse experience, where a living poet gave permission, then withdrew permission after hearing the music.
The composer wrote her own replacement text in which she outlined the whole cautionary tale (without naming names) - "I must destroy the space whale" became "I must replace the space tale"
on January 25, 2013 12:07pm
If the work is copyrighted, get a permission to use it as a lyrics from the copyright holder. The copyholder maybe the poet him/herself, or his/her successor or the publisher.
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