AC Douglas promises to set me straight on the matter of Dr. Lionel Sawkins (1657 - ) and his dispute with the Hyperion record label. Watch his site for a response. [Update: He's come through, with surgical lucidity.] Apparently, from the standpoint of British law, Sawkins can indeed assume authorship of the music of Michel-Richard de Lalande. Essentially, you can copyright a public-domain work if you assert yourself upon it in some identifiable way, even if your work hardly amounts to "originality" in the real-world sense. Translators, for example, increasingly demand royalties in their contracts. A good musical editor is supposed to erase his own personality in pursuit of the original composer's voice. Yet, the harder he works to disappear, the more he deserves to be considered the author of the work! Or so the law currently suggests. But consider this example. Suppose a certifiably authentic new Shakespeare play is discovered. The text is mostly intact, but it's water-damaged in a few places, and some lines need to be guessed at. Perhaps large parts of it use some kind of shorthand which must be deciphered, but once the method is figured out it's all perfectly clear. Perhaps parts of the play were scattered all over the globe and it took a scholar many years to assemble them. When it's all put together, and it's a ragingly magnificent tragedy on the level of Hamlet, would the scholar dare to claim copyright? I'm guessing no, because it's Shakespeare. If it's Michel-Richard de Lalande, no one cares. There's something chilling about the ever-expanding definition of copyright; it's serving the public less and less. As Mark Katz observes in his crucial new book Capturing Sound, it is mainly a gift to large corporations, which can seize rights to intellectual property practically in perpetuity. No surprise that a small company is the big loser here.