Dealing with rights in the TRANSIT collection

The fifteenth edition of the TRANSIT Festival for New Music took place in Leuven in 2014. There are numerous scores, recordings, programmes, etc. that document this festival, but many of the scores have not been published, and lots of the recordings are unique. MATRIX wanted to draw attention to this unique collection and make it available online with the New Music in Leuven project. But all the rights and permissions first had to be cleared and granted before any of the music and scores could be posted online. This report explains how the project was initiated and how the rights and permissions were arranged.

This project was made possible thanks to support from City of Leuven (Cultural Heritage Department) and the Flanders Festival Vlaams-Brabant, and is produced in collaboration with Resonant – Centre for Flemish Musical Heritage, and PACKED – Centre of Expertise in Digital Heritage (in the context of TRACKS).


  • project request (January 2014 & 2015)
  • project planning (May–October 2014, May–December 2015)
  • contact composers and rights holders (2014, 2015, 2016)
  • develop website (summer 2014, summer 2015, final adjustments 2016 after several months of user testing)
  • identify and contact amateurs (performers) (2nd half of 2015)


MATRIX and TRANSIT have been collaborating closely on arts projects since 2003: TRANSIT commissions MATRIX to realise new productions with amateur musicians. Every year since 2004, a new composition has been specially written for an occasional ensemble of amateur musicians (children, young people and/or adults) from Leuven and the surrounding areas.

The first phase of the New Music in Leuven project focused on these educational scores. They are all ‘unusual’ scores, which can often only be performed again with help from a recording, performance directions and a word of explanation from the composer. Some scores don’t even consist of notes, but rather of prints, texts or colourful diagrams on transparent plastic sheets, or were possibly even conceived as a board game.

MATRIX therefore aims to keep this unique music alive by:

  • making repeat performances possible (all documentation needs to be available);
  • collecting and preserving documentation to make it available to a diverse audience, from novices to professionals.

The decision was made to document all the relevant information and make it available via a new website, so it can be easily accessed by musicians and academies. Before all these documents can be made available, all the composers first have to be contacted with regard to posting the scores online and making it possible to perform the music again. Unfortunately, however, lots of organisations and musicians are unaware of the different types of rights and how they can affect their work. An extra section even needs to be added to new composer contracts for future editions, for example, so that rights that have already been granted don't need to be cleared again at a later date.


Gather materials

Various types of materials have been collected from annual TRANSIT productions and presentations over the years:

  • photos;
  • scores (digital and paper);
  • audio clips;
  • video content;
  • programmes/leaflets;
  • electronics;
  • etc.

A preliminary phase carefully considered exactly what information was required for repeat performances. Scores and possibly people can be essential for this. New music can’t always be simply recorded in easily readable scores for various reasons:

  • the music was created organically during various *rehearsal sessions (and not noted down);
  • (live) electronics are required;
  • image content is required;
  • it’s improvised;
  • graphic notation is used;
  • technical equipment is required (amplifiers, mixing desks, microphones, pedals, etc.).

New music therefore often requires technical information sheets and performance instructions. These instructions explain how the composer needs to work with the musical content. A technical information sheet lists what equipment is required to perform the composition. In the specific case of the educational scores, this extra information was often unavailable, which is a big obstacle when it comes to producing repeat performances. Some compositions in this collection also give the performers lots of musical freedom, meaning every performance will sound different. But audio clips can still provide lots of information about the composition and be particularly useful when combined with a score. The documentary value of this collection translates mainly into photo and video content, scores, audio clips and texts from programmes and leaflets. To make all this information available to the audience, however, it all had to be packaged in the correct file formats for it to be accessible online. Guidelines (in Dutch) were used as much as possible for this: MP3 for multimedia, PDF for text formats and PNG for image formats. These are all reference files, which are smaller in size and lower in quality than archive files. ‘Embedded media’ such as YouTube was used for videos, as this saves space in the database and is very easy to work with.

The content itself was collected together by various people in a Dropbox account, so all the information could be shared easily and new content could always be added. The Dropbox account was used as a temporary solution to be able to share content with various partners quickly during the working process.


It wasn’t always easy to contact all the composers, and it sometimes took time to revise their scores and/or playback instructions, for example, so this took much longer to complete than anticipated. The project was therefore delayed somewhat.


Types of rights

Clearing the rights was a very important phase of the project. The aim is to make all the information available to the audience. Lots of this information also has to be downloadable so that visitors can work with it independently. We therefore had to check what types of rights the content could be subject to before it could be posted online. For the website, this involved copyrights, related rights, portrait rights and software law (see also the tool Soorten rechten (in Dutch)). In this case, copyright protects the composer of a score and/or audio clips, but also the photographer whose photos are used, for example. The performers of the work need to agree to the portrait rights on photos and related rights for audio recordings. And software law is applicable for the creators of software programs (e.g. to use electronics during the performance).

Clearing the rights

The contracts that Flanders Festival agreed with the composers did not include any articles about storing the scores or making them available so that productions could be performed again by others. The rights therefore had to be cleared retroactively for this. In future, there will be a paragraph included so that any newly created content can be made available immediately via the website.

In an initial phase, all the composers whose ‘educational score’ would appear on the website were contacted. They were asked to agree that all the collected material could be posted on the website. The majority of the composers reacted positively; only two composers adopted a more cautious attitude. They first wanted to see how and in what form the material would appear online. Once permission had been received by email, it was then set down in a written contract.

Agreements for various information to be downloadable from the website also had to be reached with composers. It was decided to work with the Creative Commons Licence (see also Creative Commons as a solution for the rights problem): Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0). This means that you are free to:

  • share the work – to copy, distribute and forward via any medium or file format
  • edit the work – to remix, modify and create derived works

The licensor cannot withdraw this permission as long as the licence conditions are satisfied.

Under the following conditions:

  • Attribution – the user must state the name of the maker of the work, provide a link to the licence, and state if the work has been modified. You may do this in a reasonable manner, but not in such a way as to create the impression that the licensor agrees with your work or your use of the work.
  • Non-Commercial – you may not use the work for commercial purposes.
  • Share-Alike – if you’ve remixed, modified or built upon the work, you must distribute the changed content under the same licence as the original work.

The icon for this Creative Commons Licence is posted on the website together with the compositions. It is currently being investigated whether it is possible to also use the licence for embedded metadata in the downloadable files.

If some composers do not agree with this, a different agreement can be sought. Even though this has not happened yet, some solutions have already been considered: publication with a watermark, only make the first few pages downloadable, etc.

In a second stage, MATRIX wants to appeal to all performers, photographers, etc. to ask people to agree with regard to portrait right, copyright and related rights. This is quite intensive work as not all contact information is easy to find. Lots of performers were still children at the time but are now adults, which makes it harder to identify and contact them. And contact details have not always been saved or are out of date. This will be a continuing point of attention over the coming weeks and months. A risk analysis has been conducted and most of the content has already been posted online in the meantime. We just want to wait for written permission for the audio first.


The website aims to reach various target groups. On one hand it needs to be a well-documented website about an important Flemish contemporary music festival that appeals to music-lovers. On the other hand, music academies also need to be able to access ready-made, usable content so that amateur musicians can perform this contemporary music. The website therefore had to be inviting enough for people to come and explore, while at the same time being practical to use for those looking for specific information. It was decided together with the web designer to create a visually appealing website with photos that encourage further exploration. An extensive ‘media section’ was also created with all the essentials for each composition: what performers and personnel are required, how long does the work take, and what technical equipment is needed. The information can also all be downloaded and printed. An important aspect of the web design is its ‘backstage’ user-friendliness.


  • Even though defining rights is an important thing to do, it’s something that only few composers and musicians are already familiar with. Their contact with us raised their awareness of the matter, which in turn has helped them make their work available on their own website, for example.
  • Looking for, contacting and following up the rights holders was also quite a time-consuming process. It is therefore recommended to draw up a plan of action in advance for this.

Author: Sanne Van Bellingen (PACKED vzw)

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TRACKS is a collaboration between these partners: