Sawkins judgment 'will affect all classical companies.
British classical label Hyperion Records has lost its defence of the copyright case brought against it by composer Dr Lionel Sawkins.
Sawkins, of Beckenham, England, is known for his adaptations of works by the late French composer Michel-Richard De Lalande.
He successfully sued Hyperion Records in May 2004 claiming it had breached his copyright by releasing a De Lalande CD containing four of his arrangements without his approval and without naming him as the author.
The CD in question was Hyperion's October 2001 release "Music for the Sun King."
Hyperion subsequently took its case to the Court of Appeal in London, where it asked lord justices Mummery, Mance and Jacob to rule that High Court judge justice Patten erred when he found in favor of Sawkins.
Hyperion argued that the music recorded on the CD was the work of Lalande, not of Sawkins.
In backing Sawkins, Jacob today (May 19) said that while "mere photocopying or changing the key" would not be enough to establish a separate copyright, Sawkins' work passed the test.
"This was not servile copying," Jacob added. "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 licence 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 in respect to three of the works. He was also awarded all his legal costs of the appeal.