So seldom do things come on the radio that I think I genuinely have something to say about that today’s item on the Tarzan call on PRI’s “The World” interested me. The piece is here.
The gist of the piece is that Edgar R. Burrough’s estate (he who wrote the Tarzan books) would like to copyright (or is it trademark–the PRI reporter was a little unclear on this) the aaaaaaaaa call that Tarzan does, but the EU won’t allow it. Now, I can think of reasons they might not–not least being that ERB only wrote the books–but their actual reasoning seems wierd and wrong to me. The legal argument, apparently, is that the call is not notatable using standard Western notation. The problems with this logic seem manifold to me:
Took about 5 minutes (which includes the time I had to spend figuring out how to make a fermata in Finale). I’m not super confident about the exact pitches of the yodeled bit, but with a little more time I’m sure I (or someone with bigger ears) could get closer to it. The point is, it’s not rocket science.
The other argument that apparently the court made, was that this call wasn’t “composed in the traditional way.” (That is, in the Beethovinian model–the way they hypothesized, which amounts to one guy saying, “sing something like this” and another guy doing that, seems pretty “traditional” to me, whatever that might mean). This seems like it would hold more legal water; this is, for the record, one of my pet problems with American copyright law, and is the sort of thing that makes it hard to copyright improvised work, such as jazz solos. I don’t know enough about European copyright law to speak to that, but if it does hold legal water, the law really has to be changed, as does the American law. But that’s a rant for another day.
Oh, by the way, to the Burroughs Estate: if you’re still pursuing legal options, and are looking for someone to do some expert witnessing for you, I’m sure we can work out suitable terms….