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    Panel: Copyright Needed In Music, But Should Benefit Musicians

    Published on 12 July 2010 @ 5:43 pm

    By , Intellectual Property Watch

    Copyright is critical to the survival of the music industry and its creators, but lack of respect for copyright is not why artists are struggling to make ends meet, argued a recent panel of media lawyers and music industry experts. The blame for that lies squarely on the corporate-focus of the music industry, and how it has bent copyright law to serve companies rather than composers, said a panel at the University of Westminster.

    File-sharing too is an issue, but innovative thinking may be required to find new ways to manage music sharing practices which have become outdated, panellists said.

    The “biggest flaw in music is not copyright, it’s business practice,” said attorney and lecturer Ben Challis. Business practices that shift rights from the author or song writer to companies are the reason that artists do not get paid, he added. A fair regime would protect artists as well as the corporate side, he added.

    Copyright has “shown itself for what it truly is,” said Kienda Hoji, an entertainment lawyer and senior lecturer at the University of Westminster. It is a system that benefits those who want to make money, not the creators who deserve to, he said.

    They were speaking at an event called Talking Copyright: Reflecting On A 300 Year History & The Music Industry, held at the University of Westminster in London on 15 June. The event was organised by British Black Music, an online resource, and the Black Music Congress, a “forum for discussing issues around black music, networking, and a pathway to music industry education.”

    It was intended to explore whether copyright laws are robust enough for the internet age, and if copyright awareness campaigns had lost the hearts and minds of young music consumers.

    Many examples of copyright leaving the artist behind were cited by the event chair, Kwaku, founder of the Black Music Congress and one of the directors of British Black Music.

    Composer Solomon Linda, a South African Zulu, composed a song called “Mbube” after the Zulu word for “lion.” The song later became famous as “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” which was eventually licensed to Disney for its film the Lion King, but Linda died poor, having not seen a fraction of the money generated by his work, said Kwaku.

    A settlement in 2006 finally acknowledged – more than 45 years after Linda’s death – the South African origin of the song, and guaranteed his heirs, until that time living in poverty, an income, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization magazine.

    And Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, an English composer, had sold his wildly popular song Hiawatha to Novello for 15 guineas (British pounds) in the late 1800s and received no further royalties on it. Novello is still collecting on it, said Kwaku.

    Two model laws should be more common if artists are to fully benefit from copyright laws, said David Stopps, the copyright & related rights director at the International Music Managers Forum.

    These are: a German law in which the transfer of copyright can only be done by licence, which means that the rights rest fundamentally with artists; and a United States law that limits the transfer of copyright – after 35 years the creator has the right to get the copyright back. This could help prevent cases where music is still under copyright yet not available to the public: a worst-case scenario for the artist, who then cannot make money but cannot do anything with the music either, said Stopps.

    The US law went into effect in 1978, meaning 2013 is the first opportunity for it to be used, said Stopps. Record companies are opposed, he added, so he predicted there will be legal cases.

    And some aspects of copyright are outdated, said Challis, adding that his students were horrified that sampling from existing songs is illegal, as they see song creation from sampling as creating a new thing.

    In a changing digital environment, however, new business models are needed as much as new artist savvy.

    Pauline Henry, a singer and former member of Scottish band the Chimes asked why it was still possible for people to download music for free. The trick is to have music available online but without piracy, she said.

    If more than half of the population is involved in file sharing – and if this constitutes over 90 percent of the digital market – said Challis, then this constitutes market failure and there must be better ways to manage it, perhaps through an “access to music charge” akin to the British television charge.

    Stopps said that many artists now make more from rights to their image than to their music: singer Beyoncé, for example, owed more than half of her income to branding associated with her name.

    But selling music is not necessarily a lost cause. “You can compete with free,” said Stopps, pointing to the success of bottled water. But part of it is understanding how people behave.

    “Record companies shoot themselves in the foot with production times” that see songs released on radio but unavailable for purchase until eight weeks later, for example, said Stopps. The “public won’t wait,” and if music is only available on Pirate Bay then this just drives piracy, he said.

    A member of the audience suggested getting in touch with young music fans, who are often willing to pay artists directly.

    Kaitlin Mara may be reached at kmara@ip-watch.ch.

     

    Comments

    1. Crosbie Fitch says:

      If you set out with “Copyright is critical to the survival of the music industry and its creators” as your premise then this is what you will end up with as a conclusion – irrespective of ample evidence to the contrary.

      Why not set out with a question that needs answering, rather than how to preserve an anachronistic 18th century privilege that been rendered ineffective and obsolete by modern communications technology?

      Who should creators sell their intellectual work to, now that the monopoly governing manufacture of copies is no longer effective and we can look forward to the demise of the creators’ former customers, the copy manufacturing, distribution and retail industries?

      Fortunately, it’s got a simple answer, and it doesn’t involve copyright. But my point is that you’d never get that answer if you believe that copyright is a priori essential to a creator’s prosperity.

    2. Louise Nemschoff says:

      I would just like to expand on some information in this report about the U.S. law (i.e., termination of transfers after 35 years). The law took effect in 1978, but among other things, it contains provisions expressly dealing with pre-1978 works, some of which confirm a modified version of the judicial doctrine whereby heirs of a deceased author can recapture copyright for the renewal term. In fact, there have already been a number of cases regarding the application of these provisions, including cases involving “Winnie the Pooh,” Superman comics, the choreography of Martha Graham, works by John Steinbeck, several film writers and an American television series. The results of these cases have been very mixed.

    3. Brewster Kneen says:

      So far so good, but not far enough. The real, fundamental question is, how are cultural workers to be compensated for their contributions to the public good? If it is the ‘creators’ – those I’d prefer to call ‘cultural workers’- and not the big media corporations that need to be cared for, then let’s not assume any existing capitalist business models are going to address the problem.

    4. oxana says:

      Give copyright back to the authors

      Actually, copyright law itself is not that complex. The structure behind it is. Collecting societies, music publishers and record companies, who knows what they are doing? Imagine, you’re a small artist who wants to be famous. Sign here, sign here and sign here. Before you know it you don’t have any rights left, including income from gigs and merchandising. It used to be evident that we wanted to reward the creativity of people. Nowadays, it’s not that obvious anymore. My idea is that we should not discuss copyright law, but how to protect the performing, reproduction and any other rights of the music authors. Luckily I’m not the only one who is worried. It can’t be any coincidence that the Featured Artists Coalition was founded. They want the artists to have more control of their music and a much fairer share of the profits it generates in the digital age. But there is also another way. The internet is a promising marketing environment, fit for individual management of copyright and the delivery of rights on demand to users. In these circumstances the music authors are in full control of their rights. And is that not what it used to be all about? Giving the advantages of being creative to such persons? I hope the authors will be more and more aware of the fact that they have a strong legal position.

    5. CJ says:

      A) Copyright (as spelled out in the US Constitution) is for the benefit of the public, not the creators.

      B) It is meant to balance the interests of creators (or the companies they license their creations to) and the interests of the public. Unfortunately over the past half century, all the “reforms” has tilted that balance radically towards the interests of the creators/corporations.

      Why not just return copyright terms to a sane limit like 20 years? This restores the balance and encourages creators to continue creating. Frankly, if you haven’t made money from your creations in 20 years, you’re not likely to make any more. There will be that exceptional .02% that would continue being profitable (think James Brown’s “I Feel Good” etc) of course, but again, the point of copyright is to benefit the public. If nothing is ever release into the public domain, when does the public get a benefit? That would resolve the issue of sampling outright. Plus, there’s nothing stopping you from making money from your creations after it is released to the public domain.

    6. Copyright Serves Middlemen, Not Content Creators | Tech Geek says:

      [...] power, and a recent panel discussion involving music industry insiders and lawyers suggests that at least some are coming to terms with this: The “biggest flaw in music is not copyright, it’s business practice,” said [...]

    7. Ministry of Sound Legally Threatens 2,000 Alleged File-Sharers says:

      [...] or not that is happening in Britain is beside the point if you read about a panel discussing the matter. The even was organized by British Black Music and there were many interesting points being made. [...]

    8. Music Law Updates - British Black Music Month Copyright Panel and Pete Jenner on ‘digital content consumers’ says:

      [...] of Music Law Updates, took part in at Westminster University as part of British Black Music Month http://www.ip-watch.org/weblog/2010/07/12/panel-copyright-needed-in-music-but-should-benefit-musicia… and here is another link, this time to to Pete Jenner’s interesting talk on copyright laws in [...]


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    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website. By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website.

    By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    1. You agree that you are fully responsible for the content that you post. You will not knowingly post content that violates the copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property right of any third party or which you know is under a confidentiality obligation preventing its publication and that you will request removal of the same should you discover that you have violated this provision. Likewise, you may not post content that is libelous, defamatory, obscene, abusive, that violates a third party's right to privacy, that otherwise violates any applicable local, state, national or international law, that amounts to spamming or that is otherwise inappropriate. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual preference, disability or other classification. Epithets and other language intended to intimidate or to incite violence are also prohibited. Furthermore, you may not impersonate others.

    2. You understand and agree that Intellectual Property Watch is not responsible for any content posted by you or third parties. You further understand that IP Watch does not monitor the content posted. Nevertheless, IP Watch may monitor the any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove, edit or otherwise alter content that it deems inappropriate for any reason whatever without consent nor notice. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on our site. IP Watch is not in any manner endorsing the content of the discussion forums and cannot and will not vouch for its reliability or otherwise accept liability for it.

    3. By submitting any contribution to IP Watch, you warrant that your contribution is your own original work and that you have the right to make it available to IP Watch for all purposes and you agree to indemnify IP Watch, its directors, employees and agents against all damages, legal fees and others expenses that may be incurred by IP Watch as a result of your breach of warranty or of these terms.

    4. You further agree not to publish any personal information about yourself or anyone else (for example telephone number or home address). If you add a comment to a blog, be aware that your email address will be apparent.

    5. IP Watch will not be liable for any loss including but not limited to the following (whether such losses are foreseen, known or otherwise): loss of data, loss of revenue or anticipated profit, loss of business, loss of opportunity, loss of goodwill or injury to reputation, losses suffered by third parties, any indirect, consequential or exemplary damages.

    6. You understand and agree that the discussion forums are to be used only for non-commercial purposes. You may not solicit funds, promote commercial entities or otherwise engage in commercial activity in our discussion forums.

    7. You acknowledge and agree that you use and/or rely on any information obtained through the discussion forums at your own risk.

    8. For any content that you post, you hereby grant to IP Watch the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual, exclusive and fully sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part, world-wide and to incorporate it in other works, in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

    9. These terms and your posts and contributions shall be governed and interpreted in accordance with the laws of Switzerland (without giving effect to conflict of laws principles thereof) and any dispute exclusively settled by the Courts of the Canton of Geneva.

     

     
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