Recognizing copyrights in adaptations expressed in print editions, the Court of Appeal in London May 19 upheld a lower court decision in favor of composer/editor Lionel Sawkins.

LONDON -- Recognizing copyrights in adaptations expressed in print editions, the Court of Appeal in London May 19 upheld a lower court decision in favor of composer/editor Lionel Sawkins.

Sawkins is known in the music industry for his adaptations of works by 17th century French composer Michel-Richard de Lalande. He prepared print editions of four Lalande works, which Hyperion Records recorded in 2001 for a CD.

Sawkins successfully sued Hyperion for copyright infringement in 2004, claiming that the recordings on "Music for the Sun King" included his arrangements without his permission and without naming him as the author. Hyperion appealed the judgment, arguing that the music was the work of de Lalande, not of Sawkins.

The Court of Appeal held that copyright protection can exist in modern performing editions.

Sawkins was entitled to copyright protection for the following reasons, the court wrote: he originated the performing editions by his own expert and scholarly exertions; the editions did not previously exist in that form; the contents of his editions affected the combination of sounds produced by the performers; and the resulting combination of sounds embodied in the CD was music.

The court acknowledged that "mere photocopying or changing the key" would not be enough to establish a separate copyright.

"This was not servile copying," the court wrote. "It had the practical value of making the work playable. He recreated Lalande's work using a considerable amount of personal judgment. His recreative work was such as to create something really new using his own original work."

Hyperion accepted the judgment, but warned it had implications for all classical labels. "The judgment means that almost every edition of an out-of-copyright work will in fact have its own musical copyright because the law will regard it as 'original'," Hyperion commented in a statement. "This will affect classical record companies and performers of classical music as they will have to seek (and pay for) a license before performing or recording music from an edition."

Damages are to be assessed at a future hearing. Sawkins had sought between £15,000-£50,000 ($27,000-$91,000) in respect of all four pieces. This figure is expected to be reduced to reflect the fact he was successful with respect to three of the works.