Work B is based on Work A; should Work A songwriters be credited on Work B?

Continuing the discussion from edit #56018268.

Work A was written by Artist A.
Artist B made a “cover”, which is different enough to be a new work, Work B. Should Artist A be credited as a songwriter for Work B, which they did not write anything new for or is the Work B is based on Work A relationship sufficient?

And if we credit songwriters of based on works to new works, where do we draw the line?

Artist Z wrote Work Z which samples Work Y by Artist Y, which in turn samples Work X by Artist X, which… , which in turn samples Work A by Artist A.
Should Artists A-Y all be credited on Work Z?

If Artist B is doing a cover of Artist A’s work, then Artist A is still the writer of the original work. In that case I would say yes, they should still be credited as the writer.

If Artist X is sampling small chunks of Artist A’s work then no need to credit A as a writer.

I would say it is about looking at the work produced and seeing what percentage of it is similar to the original. A cover version generally follows the original in words and\or music closely. Whereas when a sample is used then the new product being created has a majority of the new creator’s work, so the new creator is the writer. (Though the samples should still be separately credited)

I see using a “sample” like using an instrument. A 10 second live trumpet solo being included in a track is just the same as adding a 5 second sample from a different track. The creator of the new works is collecting sounds that sound good to them as a new piece - whether that is from a live instrument or a chunk of someone else’s creation.

Whereas someone doing a cover version of someone else’s work is implying they like that original well enough to want to perform it. So that case should acknowledge the original creator.

I usually credit everyone that wrote the work as well as anyone that wrote works that were sampled.
This is what usually happens when looking up credits in the works databases.
You do occasionally get long dead artists credited as writers of modern songs because they heavily sampled an older song and the writing credits include them as a writer.
This is something that artist occasionally sue over so they usually do the right thing and credit everyone.

For a list of works databases look at the ones linked from the wiki:

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I get that the music industry has to do it like that - though to be honest they usually get sued over not paying for samples/covers/etc, not so much for not crediting correctly.
I just don’t think that we should do it like that.
If Miles Davis is credited as the sole writer of one of his songs in all albums it appears on (because Miles Davis was an arrogant a**), but credible sources write that Joe Zawinul actually wrote most of the song - then we stick to the facts and not the liner notes right?


I think Artist A should only be credited for Work B if they contributed something new to the creation of Work B.

If Artist A had no say in Work B, then the based-on relationship between Work B and Work A is all that is needed, and the original composer can easily be found by following the link. Otherwise there is an unnecessarily tight (possibly circular) coupling of the data, as @paulakreuzer’s example of the chained works demonstrates. There do exist cases where the original composer does contribute to a derived work, but only then should there be a composition or arrangement credit for Artist A on the derived work.

I hate to look at a composer’s lists of works and find entries which were created long after their death, and which are inconsistent with the composer’s catalogue of works.

An example done right is A Lover’s Concerto. This has the based-on link to the minuet from the Anna Magdalena notebook, but no composer credit for Bach or Petzold. An example I dislike is All By Myself which has a composition credit for Rachmaninov as well as the based-on link to the Adagio from the 2nd piano concerto.

Sampling is a relationship between recordings, not between compositions. There are parallels, but they can’t be discussed interchangeably.


This is my preference too, and what I think most users would expect by intuition; but a recent edit #58829504 by style leader (@reosarevok pinged as such) means to differ: Original composer A should be credited for arranged work B (subworks too). Maybe the line is drawn tight around original composer & lyricist, excluding all else?

A workaround would be to have something like a “wrote work this work is based on” attribute for songwriting relationships and then be able to hide these relationships from the work as well as hide the work on the artist’s works page.

The more logical to me though would be to not credit writers of the original works on derived works at all.

Until we have a good way to find all relationships that apply and follow inheritance automatically, we should be adding the relationships for things like arrangements. In the same way, we should add Shakespeare as a lyricist of “X Songs on Texts by Shakespeare”, even if he was dead by the time his texts were used.

I personally stop at based-on works though. IMO “Fantasia on the Motives of the Opera Whatever by ThisDude” is not a work by ThisDude at all, so I add the person writing the Fantasia as composer, and link it to the opera with “is based on”, and that’s all I add.


I suspect the issue here is Rach is actually officially credited as a composer - for royalty reasons at least, since the piece most likely wasn’t in the public domain by the time it was used. So it feels kinda strange to actively say “no, despite whatever the appropriate liner notes and official composition databases say, this is not composed by Rach”, although I generally agree with your view here :slight_smile:


I think there’s a significant difference between an arrangement relationship (the edit you cite) and a based-on relationship, which is why we have both. An arrangement usually changes only the instrumentation, not the structure or harmony of the work. In a based-on relationship all bets are off, often it’s just quoting a theme from the original.

I don’t mind the use of the original composer for an arrangement, or at least any objections I have are about data integrity rather than musical sensibility.


Yes, you’re right. The linked WP article for All By Myself tells the story. It’s rather surprising that Carmen’s record company doesn’t seem to have considered the issue until after the record was a success, which was a pretty big oversight given that Rach only died in 1943, and the record came out in the 1970s.

The licencing of copyright is not only about accruing income from royalties and performing rights. The copyright holder must assent to any derived work being published or performed (with exceptions in some legal systems, e.g. parody). So the Rach estate could have withheld permission, but chose to accept 12% of the royalties instead. Perhaps they actually liked it :face_with_raised_eyebrow:, or it was a punitive amount to recognise that the derived work was already out there and recall was impossible.

I’m put in mind of my hero Liz Carroll’s idea to create an Irish version of Peter and the Wolf (one fragment extant here), but she was denied permission by the Prokofiev estate (died 1953, on the same day as Stalin). I observe that the potential royalties from a Liz Carroll release are relatively small.

we not only have “arrangement” and “based on” relationships, there’s also “version of”… And I’m not always sure which one best to use :confused: The arguments may differ for each of the three relations, so maybe off topic

I just created this “version of” Song “(Everytime They Play the) Sabre Dance” - MusicBrainz
Obviously Khatchaturian is the composer and should be credited (as he is on all records and on the sheet music), even if not directly implied – like the writers of all the poems put to music shouldn’t be omitted, even if the “Song” is based on the “Poem”. Staying with “version of”: versions in a different language than the original should keep the original writer/lyricist if the new version, even if not a word by word translation, follows the original intention of the writer – and of course the composer must be credited


Of course, I meant the fuzzy borders between the two (and the ‘version’ mentioned by chabreyflint) – because they seem not to be as clearly defined in the guidelines as your example – but also differences in understanding of these terms in classical tradition as opposed to popular, and other MB-relational terms too (e.g. an artist given ‘instruments arranger’ credit for a work B ‘based on’ an original A). Not to nag though, just picking nits caught between the toes while editing.

Agreed on ‘use’: Problem at this point is the manually repeated (even per script) input, a source of annoyance and potential error.

You’d also have to block editors from adding work-work relationships that create an endless loop. IMO it doesn’t make sense to discard official composition credits that are true.

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Someone seems to be expressing that they won’t follow anything posted here unless it’s a Style Guideline rather than the words of the Style Leader.