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Copyright – Ralph Vaughan Williams

United Kingdom copyright laws apply to the published and unpublished works of Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)

Under the UK Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 (CDPA), literary and musical works published during the creator’s lifetime remain in copyright for 70 years after the year of the death of their creator. Therefore, subject to what is said below, RVW’s works published during his lifetime will remain in copyright until the end of 2028.Under the UK Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 (CDPA), literary and musical works published during the creator’s lifetime remain in copyright for 70 years after the year of the death of their creator. Therefore, subject to what is said below, RVW’s works published during his lifetime will remain in copyright until the end of 2028. Permissions to copy, quote, arrange, record etc. by any means whatever, published works by RVW, must be initially obtained from the publisher* of the particular work. This will include his arrangements of traditional music (such as folk song), but does not cover the original tunes which are in the public domain. Under the transitional provisions of CDPA, copyright in works that were unpublished at the time of the commencement of the CDPA, 1 August 1989, lasts until 31 December 2039. That copyright is now under the control of the Vaughan Williams Charitable Trust, so the permissions mentioned above in relation to these works must be obtained from that Trust, though where the work has subsequently been published, The Vaughan Williams Charitable Trust may have licensed the publisher to administer copyright matters on its behalf. The copyright in the writings of both Ralph and Ursula VW (including their letters) is the property of The Vaughan Williams Charitable Trust.

Settings by RVW of texts can also involve an additional copyright belonging to the author of the text as a co-creator. Where this is the case, under current regulations, copyright remains in force for the whole work until 70 years after the death of the co-creator who dies latest (thus, for example, RVW’s settings of texts by Ursula Wood/Vaughan Williams (1912-2007) will remain in copyright until the end of 2077.)

Additionally, there may also be separate editorial, typographical or other copyrights in the more recent editions of RVW’s published scores which could extend their protection beyond 2028. The same situation applies where works by RVW have been substantially amended or recomposed by others, such as Dark Pastoral and the Norfolk March.

The above guidance is only intended as a general overview of the relevant provisions of UK copyright law in force at the date of this note (April 2020) and specific legal advice should be sought by interested parties as appropriate to any particular circumstances.

* Ralph Vaughan Williams’s major publishers:

The Ralph Vaughan Williams Society is a Registered Charity No: 1156614.   Registered address: North House, 198 High Street, Tonbridge, Kent TN9 1BE.

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