Rush Tablature Project Charter
Statement of Principles and Policies, by Branden Robinson. Ratified 4 February 1998.

1. Mission Statement
The Rush Tablature Project is an informal consortium of musicians dedicated to active development of human-readable transcriptions of the musical performances of the members of the Canadian rock group Rush.

2. General Information
The intersection between rock musicians and Rush fans is larger than for most rock groups; it may be inferred that Rush fans in general have a particular interest in playing musical instruments (particularly those customarily employed in rock music), and that practicing musicians are likely to hold Rush in some measure of esteem, for each of the group's members are particularly talented as composers and performers.

Many musicians, both amateur and professional, find it instructive to learn existing pieces; particularly those they enjoy listening to. In the absence of publicly available transcriptions of Rush's music endorsed by the band members, it falls upon their fans to try to work out their parts for themselves. This is an inexact science for a number of reasons.

The purpose of the Rush Tablature Project is to create transcriptions, as authoritative as can be, building consensus by practicing musicians who are concerned about accurately reproducing the parts of the band members. In the course of this effort, and as a consequence, it is hoped that the tablature files generated by the Rush Tablature Project will be considered authoritative and make their way to music and tablature archives around the world.

The purpose of this document is to provide guidelines directing this endeavor.

3. Mailing List
To the above end, Jimmy Pena started a mailing list on 25 April 1997 to address the absence of any organized effort on the part of Rush fans and musicians.

4. Web Site
The mailing list in turn spawned a web site, the Rush Tablature Project, originally administered by Branden Robinson and activated on 16 June 1997, to which, potentially, the whole world could turn to share in the fruits of these labors. The web site has since moved to a new location and is currently administered by David M. Fornalsky.

5. Tablature Organization and Administration
Currently the Rush Tablature Project archive is divided into five sections: guitar tablatures, bass tablatures, drum tablatures, keyboard tablatures, and vocal tablatures.

To focus efforts on the large and ever-growing catalogue of Rush music, each Rush song and instrument combination will have a maintainer. A maintainer is a member of the mailing list who will, if necessary, prepare existing tablature for the parts of a Rush song corresponding to particular instrument (guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, or voice) in a format appropriate for the Project (see section 6, "Tablature Format") and be aware of any discussion or suggestions made to the mailing list about the transcription for that song. The maintainer will then consider any suggestions, and do one of three things:

  1. Reject the suggestion as spurious
  2. Accept the suggestion, adding new information or replacing old informationnow judged to be incorrect or incomplete
  3. Agree to disagree, and include the suggestion in an appendix at or nearthe end of the tablature file or in a separate file
The maintainer should reject a suggestion if it consists of no worthwhile musical information ("Alex usually grins at Geddy when he plays this part"), or if the information is in the maintainer's considered opinion utterly incorrect ("an E5 chord in the open position is the first chord in 'Fly by Night'").

The maintainer should accept the suggestion if it is a clear improvement on older information ("Here's the solo to 'Anthem'" when no solo was transcribed before - assuming the solo provided is not obviously bogus).

The maintainer should include the provided information, but not replace existing information, when the suggestion has merit but is still not quite, in the maintainer's considered opinion, correct. For instance, if an enharmonic version of a riff already tabbed is submitted, the maintainer may include the suggestion in an appendix, located near the end of the tablature file, or in a separate file also available at the web site. The maintainer may, of course, swap the existing section to the appendix and put the submitted version in the main section of the tab file if he or she thinks this is appropriate.

In the event that hard visual evidence of how an appropriate member of Rush plays a particular part is available, that will serve as a definitive "tie-breaker", and that method will be given preferred status in a tablature file.

Maintainers are formally recognized by the mailing list and web site administrators and will be listed in a file or HTML document at the web site and/or in the FAQ for the mailing list. Maintainers may volunteer for a particular song or group of songs and will be duly appointed in the event of no contest. If more than one person wishes to maintain a particular song, it is suggested that the interested parties negotiate among themselves. If necessary, a vote will be called on the mailing list or (less likely) the mailing list or web site administrator will dictatorially settle the issue. To date, no such conflicts have arisen.

Maintainers are expected to stay abreast of the songs they have adopted as regards traffic on the mailing list and any formal publications of transcriptions. If a maintainer appears to have "orphaned" one or more of his songs, it may be reassigned. In the event of misconduct as regards the handling of their songs, maintainers may also be impeached by the members of the mailing list.

Formal procedures for many of the above activities have yet to be developed. It is hoped that they will never become necessary. In the presence of any great issues of contention among the members of the Rush Tablature Project, it will be necessary for further formalize membership to permit voting through CGI at the web site.

6. Tablature Format
The following guidelines for submission of tablature files are mandatory:

  1. Must be in raw ASCII format, utilizing no characters numbered above 127 decimal
  2. Must have no more than 80 characters per line
  3. Must have some indication of what song is being described
Most software has the above as defaults, so there is not much to worry about. The above rules are to ensure viewability of the files among the widest possible audience. Submissions that violate the above guidelines may be rejected.

The following guidelines for submission of tablature files are recommended:

  1. Use PC-style line breaks (ASCII 13 and ASCII 10, or CTRL-J)
  2. No tab characters (ASCII 9, or CTRL-I)
The above suggestions make life easier on the web site administrator, as he uses a PC system, and tab characters are sometimes rendered differently on different systems, and could potentially cause misalignment of the text. Submissions that violate the above guidelines may be delayed getting into the archive, as the administrator will have to edit them by hand.

The actual representation of tab is highly variable due to software used and the preferences of the person keying it in. As such it is not advisable at this point to attempt to enforce some rigid standard of tablature file format, as nice as that may make the end result.

That said, here are some suggestions from the web site administrator:

  1. Have a header block at the top of the tab file similar to the following:

    Rush: Canadians Can't Boogie
    From the album Jon Anderson's Backing Band (Posterior Records)
    Copyright 1973 Rotten To The Music Publishing
    Music by Lee and Lifeson
    Lyrics by Lee and Rutsey

    It is important to identify the band and song in case the tablature file gets re-distributed (which is what we hope).

    The music copyright information is important as it acknowledges the author of the music in question in a legal sense.

    Composition credits are interesting. It should be noted that for older albums it may be necessary to check labels on vinyl for exact information (who wrote the sections of 2112, for instance).

    If the song has a maintainer, a line will be added by the web site administrator immediately after the header. For example:

    Comments/corrections to John Smith <>

    Transcription credits are important for acknowledging effort, but their inclusion is the responsibility of the tab submitter; the web site administrator will not have this information otherwise. It is strongly suggested that only a transcriber's name be included, and not that of any organization with which he or she may be affiliated; we're recognizing individuals, not colleges or companies.

  2. After the header, get down to business and present the tab for the whole song.
  3. After the tab for the song, include an appendix that contains meritorious alternate versions of riffs, if applicable. It is also permissible to submit the appendix in a separate file of the same format as the primary tablature file.
  4. After the appendix (if present), include any relevant remarks or instructions not easily included with the tab itself. Discussions of effects used, variations in performance between studio and live versions, acknowledgements of weakness or uncertainty in parts of the tab, etc. are all appropriate here.
  5. Finally, put the tab explanation - most tab should be self-explanatory, so put the explanation out of the way at the end.
7. Legalese
Note that the following is a non-lawyer's perpspective. This is a layman's understanding of the issues and thus must not be construed as actual legal advice. I disclaim any liability for anything bad that may happen to you as a result of taking these interpretations as the gospel truth. If a Real Copyright Lawyer would like to advise me (pro bono) on these matters, please feel free.

Many people are under the impression that musical transcriptions unauthorized by the band or its record company are an infringment of copyright, and that those who create such transcriptions are susceptible to legal attack from a Big Rich Record Company.

In practice the situation is more complicated than that. If doing tabs is copyright infringement (see below for clarification), then the infringement is against the entity that holds the publishing rights to the songs, not the company that owns the copyright in the sound recording(s) that appear on CDs, cassettes and other media.

Typically, these are separate companies, which deal with copyright infringement differently.

Record companies like EMI, Atlantic, Warner Brothers, etc., own copyrights in the sound recordings of an act or artists that not only already exist, but almost always the rights to any putative sound recordings that might come into existence of the act or artists while they are under contract to that record company. If you directly duplicate/distribute without permission a sound recording produced by the record company, that's "piracy"; if you duplicate/distribute sound recordings not held or released by the record company, say by gaining access to "studio tapes", a recording of a concert performance, or even a piece of music a musician did in his bedroom as a noodle, you're "bootlegging". These are distinct types of infringment, though record companies often conflate them in an effort to manipulate public opinion. You'll notice that when a musician under contract records with a musician on another label, the former is usually credited as "appears courtesy of Record Company". That's not just a "thank you", it reflects the fact that the record company legally sanctioned one of "their" artists to make music for another record company.

Publishing rights are something else entirely, which is one reason "covers" are so commonplace. You don't generally, as far as I know, need specific "permission" to perform a rendition of an existing piece of music, but you must be prepared to render what are known as "mechanical royalties" for that performance to the publishing company in question. You'll notice that the sisters(?) who wrote "Happy Birthday to You" still get credited in movies and such where that song appears. I believe that until fifty years after the death of the last surviving author, such mechanical royalties, and certainly citation of the copyright, are due. It's up to the publishing company to pursue infringements of this nature; and in practice for rock music, many (most?) artists own their own tiny little publishing company (Core Music Publishing, Vomit God Music, Flames of Albion Music, etc.)which holds the publishing rights - and this is usually completely separate from the record company said artists may be under contract to. This is why in albums with lyric sheets you almost always see "lyrics reprinted by kind permission" or some similar disclaimer. The record company actually has to have permission from the publishing company, which they generally don't own, to reprint lyrics.

Sheet music, and hence tablature, falls under a similar restriction. In practice, musical artists form mini-companies to hold publishing rights because of what happened to the Beatles in the 1960's, before they formed Apple. For Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison's pre-1968 catalog, the band members (or a surviving widow) don't hold the publishing rights, because their record company sold the rights to their songs. So it became common practice, to the irritation of the record companies (who like to own "their" artists lock, stock, and barrel), for musicians to form their own publishing companies which retain the rights to their songs, in and of themselves.

EMI, I believe, is one of the few remaining holdouts, and for any act under contract to them on whom they can bring leverage to bear, they (not the artists' publishing company) hold the rights to the songs. This is why EMI is in a position to crack down on this terrible epidemic of freelance "tabbing" and song lyric archiving. EMI holds the publishing rights for the songs of most of their artists, and generally grant exclusive contracts to the other kind of "publishing company", those who actually print sheet music in paper form and sell it.

For almost all non-EMI popular music artists, it's up to the musicians' little publishing company to bring suit against freelance transcribers. The record companies have nothing to do with it. And in practice most musicans (and even their lawyers) have bigger things to worry about than guitar tab on the Internet. Many of them may even (gasp!) quietly condone the activity; if you're in it for the money, you don't become a musician; you go to work for the record company.

On 2 January 1998, a member of the mailing list passed along the fruits of some legal legwork. Here, in edited form, is what he had to say.

The Copyright Act of 1976 is title 17 of the United States Code.

According to Section 106, in which all paragraphs concern us, the owner of the copyright has lots of rights (read the file).

Section 501 states that it is an infringement of copyright to violate any of the rights stated in Section 106. That's the bad news. Here's the good news:

Section 107 is the fair use section. It applies to the distribution of tabs and sound files (derivitive works) as long as they are used for educational purposes. Paragraph 4 is the important part (for us, anyway), as we are not disturbing the commercial potential of the product (Rush albums). Paragraph 1 is also important: we must make sure that it is clear to everybody that this archive (the RTP) is for educational pruposes only.

Section 108 is the archives and library section. Paragraph A states that it is not infringement to make copies of derivitive works for research, preservation, and archival reasons. But, it must be available to the public (which the RTP is) or to people specializing in the field (which it is).

In conclusion: we're not breaking the law.

8. Ratification and Amendment
This charter may be amended at any time by its author(s) for formatting, file format (HTML, plain text), spelling or minor grammatical errors. Any change with significant meaning, however, must be submitted to the rush-tabs mailing list for discussion. Discussion periods will last for two weeks following the submission, and following that, if the amendment is still a subject of significant disputation, a vote must be called. Amendments may be withdrawn within the discussion period, but any significant change in the meaning of the amendment will begin the discussion period anew. Further, no vote is necessary if no opposition to the amendment on the part of any maintainers is met; in such a case the amendment is automatically ratified at the end of the discussion period. All tablature maintainers of that status as of the beginning of the voting period possess the right to vote on amendments, and any amendment must be ratified by a two-thirds supermajority to pass. Furthermore, a maintainer participation of at least seventy-five percent is required for the vote to have validity. The same procedure governs the initial ratification of this charter in toto.

9. Miscellaneous
This section is reserved for any important issues that cannot be classified in the above sections.