why is it clear that it isn’t registered as derivative? It was on one of Coulton’s albums, offered to the public for sale, and he is an artist that seems to care about artists getting credit for their work, don’t you think he paid for a license? If he did get permission, which I think he did, then wouldn’t it be protected whether or not he registered it? Because even if you don’t register an artistic creation as copyrighted, it is still protected; registering just makes it easy and clear-cut to assert that protection. which is all just a long-winded way of pointing out that if you paint or write something, somebody can’t just rip it off, even if you haven’t officially registered a copyright. The copyright just makes it much easier.
Ok, I just noticed that it is, in fact in there. HOWEVER, given that JC did sell his version, don’t you think it’s reasonable to assume that he did, in fact, obtain permission?
You write “According to copyright law, alternate arrangements of songs are “derivative works,” and arrangers can only claim a copyright when the songwriter has granted that privilege to them” Rather than just citing “copyright law,” how about an actual reference to a section of copyright code, or a link to an official statement? Because I suspect you will never find it. I read the whole info PDF from the US copyright office (specifically on derivative works), and I couldn’t find any such provision (requiring the granting of permission)
Also, you seem to think that there is something unfair about this. There isn’t; the original author still gets credit and royalties.
Go to copyright.gov. Read the following PDF: http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ14.pdf
You will see that you are quite wrong that “His version is a derivative work of the Sir Mix-a-Lot song, and thus he has no claim to it.”
Derivative works can indeed be copyrighted, so the “thus” in your claim crumbles.
Also, this differs from how a cappella groups operate - there is a big legal difference between performing a copyrighted work live (like a band performing a cover song, or an a cappella group performing live), and a recording (like a TV show or CD). I agree that there is nothing particularly novel or interesting about some white indie guy covering a rap song. Yes, it provokes a ho-hum reaction in me, but that’s not the point. The point is, new arrangements of existing songs can, in fact, be copyrighted, provided they are “different enough”.
Say I recorded and sold a note-for-note copy of “All Along the Watchtower,” the Jimi Hendrix version. The songwriter (Dylan) would get a royalty, and so would the author of that arrangement (Hendrix). No “hijacking” involved. Because, as the US copyright office puts it: “The copyright in a derivative work covers only the additions,
changes, or other new material appearing for the first time in
the work. It does not extend to any preexisting material and
does not imply a copyright in that material.” In other words, yes, you can have a copyright on a derivative work, providing that “To be copyrightable, a derivative work must differ sufficiently from the original
to be regarded as a new work or must contain a substantial amount of new
material. Making minor changes or additions of little substance to a preexisting
work will not qualify a work as a new version for copyright purposes. The new
material must be original and copyrightable in itself.” both of those quoted passages are taken directly from copyright.gov. Did you check there before writing this piece? Doesn’t seem like it.