First off, I know very little about the law whatsoever - so please bear with me on this one! :) In my spare time, I've being making instrumental accompaniments to some of my favourites musicals and pop songs. The scores are my own work in that I listen to the songs and pick out what I can hear and write in on the stave. Obviously, the songs that I am writing the accompaniments from are not my own. I use two software: Sibelius and Garage Band.

I've let some of my musician friends listen to them and they were impressed with the quality and told me to sell them for some money instead of keeping them to myself. My question is, what are the laws surrounding this? If I've made the accompaniment all by myself by listening to the original tracks then surely it's okay for me to sell them? If I were to sell them directly to buyers, what would I need to do to cover my back so I don't get accused of something like plagiarism?

Thanks a lot! I'm really sorry for my lack of knowledge in this area.

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    Lack of knowledge is okay. Lack of effort to do your own research to find it is not. – Greendrake Aug 22 '20 at 1:15
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    Lack of knowledge is OK, and I wouldn't worry too much about people complaining that you didn't research first. That's what this site is for. – bdb484 Aug 22 '20 at 6:27
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    @bdb484 In case you did not know, this site has some tips on how to ask good questions. Research is highly encouraged there. This site is certainly not a personal assistant for lazy persons who won't bother asking Google etc. before bothering us. – Greendrake Aug 22 '20 at 9:10
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    Coming here with a basic question is hardly an indication of failing to research. You seem to assume that going to Google somehow equals the correct answer to any question. The reality is that a person needs to know the right way to to query, and even then will be forced to sort through conflicting answers, often without any practical way to discern what is most reliable. It's hard for me to muster sympathy for anyone who feels bothered by someone asking a question on the Internet. If you have time to kill here, it is clearly not so valuable that you are too important to bother. – bdb484 Aug 23 '20 at 3:21
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    The Copyright Office has two pamphlets you might find useful to get a basic understanding of the law. The first covers copyright in general, the second covers derivate works. copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf copyright.gov/circs/circ14.pdf – Just a guy Aug 26 '20 at 20:30

Even with a different setup, using the same basic themes makes something a derivative work. If it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck it's a duck. The right to authorize any derivative work is an exclusive right of the holder of copyright under 17 USC 106. That's usually the author of the music, who wrote scores in the first place, or the company he sold those rights to.

Without a license to make a derivative work, a derivative work is ab initio copyright infringement. Copyright infringement has a punishment of 750 to 75000 $ in normal cases, 150000 for willful infringement. Also, the court may decide to shift all costs and fees to the losing party.

Get yourself a lawyer specialized in copyright and ask them.

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