I'm glad to hear there's some outrage somewhere. Is anyone at least considering
whether extended copyrights would apply only to new or current recordings or
those made after a certain date, or whether everything would now be covered for
95 years including all those recordings now in the PD (in which case, I'd
better look for a new job)?
Dick Spottswood wrote:
> This is as eloquent a statement as I've seen. Am I wrong, or has there
> been more outrage generated in Europe than here?
> Sonny Bonehead
> ----- Forwarded by Dick Spottswood/dick/AmericanU on 06/18/2005 12:20 PM
> "Lance Ledbetter"
<[log in to unmask]> To: "Dick Spottswood"
<[log in to unmask]>, "April R. Gambill"
06/17/2005 12:35 PM <[log in to unmask]>, "Malcolm -
<[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Copyright wrongs:
we can't let the music industry suits
> BOB GELDOF is not the only superannuated rocker whose political gifts
> overshadow his more limited musical contributions to recent cultural
> progress. Sonny Bono, too, is a name currently buzzing through the Culture
> Department's chill-pad in Cockspur Street, even though Bono departed his
> California stage set seven years ago. His biggest hit, you may recall, was
> the audaciously self-serving law he championed that extended United States
> copyright protection by 20 years. Worryingly, it is a tune that our own
> Culture Minister, James Purnell, appears unable to clear from his head.
> Mr Purnell, who is in charge of our "creative industries", believes
> that we, too, need to "modernise our intellectual property framework" along
> similar lines. Following a music industry campaign to extend the copyright
> term for sound recordings from 50 to 95 years, he has been rapping in rhythm
> with the EMI and BMG massive: in a risky, talent-driven business like pop,
> the suits, apparently, need guarantees of long-term financial returns. As he
> told the Institute for Public Policy Research yesterday, the record labels
> need copyright reforms "that will allow them to make returns on their
> creativity and to invest in innovation". What he failed to explain was the
> damage that such a short-term corporate grab would do to the public good.
> Copyright has always been a delicate compromise between the needs of
> artistic creators and the cultural richness of a wider public domain. Our
> first such law, the 1710 Statute of Anne, "for the Encouragement of Learned
> Men to Compose and Write useful Books", limited protection to 14 years,
> extendable for a further 14. Authors were expected to have ample time to
> exploit their works within such a term. Over the years, the time period was
> gradually extended - to 50 years after death in 1956 - but the principle
> remained unchanged: copyright was never simply a right for publishers to
> maximise their investment.
> The music business, in the guise of the International Federation of
> the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), has decided otherwise. The IFPI claims
> that the "huge disparity" in copyright terms with the US makes it "hard to
> do business" here - funnily enough, Bono used the same argument when the old
> US system offered less protection than in Europe. You may have heard its
> heartfelt appeals for social justice: Kenney Jones, of The Who, protesting
> that extended royalties could usefully pay the school fees; Sir Cliff
> Richard, furious to be deprived of income "simply because I have outlived
> the copyright on my sound recordings".
> Please don't tease. Such half-baked arguments owe more to the
> short-term financial pressures facing the perma-tanned hipsters running the
> record labels. They are wilfully ignoring the vital creative role of the
> public domain in reinvigorating our common culture. Had they been genuinely
> innovative over the past decade - beyond discovering Crazy Frog and "girl
> power" - the moguls would have noticed that their industry's greatest
> injections of energy have originated not within their own well-cushioned
> empires but in the public domain. Remember their aversion to MP3 downloads,
> now a vast corporate revenue stream? Or the copyright-breaching "mash-ups" -
> unauthorised combinations of existing music samples mixed by DJs - that
> first attracted music industry writs, and then were worked into Kylie's
> Digital technologies are merely amplifying the historic tendency
> towards mixing and sampling that has shaped works from Macbeth to Mickey
> Mouse. Once creative works are in the public domain, people frequently make
> wonderful new things with them - a process denied by the encroachment of
> corporate interests through copyright extensions. Would West Side Story have
> been made if Shakespeare's heirs could protect Romeo and Juliet? Would Frank
> Capra 's It's A Wonderful Life have been reinvented as a Christmas TV
> classic had it not slipped out of copyright in 1975 and been rediscovered by
> a new generation who could buy it cheaply on VHS?
> By extending the protection term, would artists be encouraged to be
> any more creative? It is unlikely that Sir Cliff would have sung Summer
> Holiday less perkily if he had known it would have benefited him for only 50
> rather than 95 years. And what of the Joyces and Plaths, whose controlling
> families could use ever longer extensions to suppress material at whim?
> There are also the interests of lesser-known artists to consider. A
> blanket copyright extension would encourage record companies to restrict
> access to their entire back catalogues, even works (the vast majority) that
> they would never exploit. Yet freely available, on other labels' cheap CD
> collections, otherwise forgotten performers could discover new life. In that
> odd way in which markets work, the benefits of such cultural entrepreneurial
> drive could accrue to the original owner of the rights.
> The essayist and historian Thomas Babington Macaulay understood the
> perils when a similar battle to extend copyright was being waged in 1841.
> Amid calls to stretch the protection to 60 years after death, Macaulay saw
> no public benefit from a monopoly lasting longer than 42 years or life. "Are
> we free to legislate for the public good, or are we not?" he asked in the
> House of Commons. "Is this a question of expediency, or is it a question of
> right? An advantage that is to be enjoyed more than half a century after we
> are dead, by somebody utterly unconnected with us, is really no motive at
> all to action." Many valuable works, he argued, would be suppressed - and
> publishers treated with such contempt that the reading public would happily
> turn to "piratical booksellers".
> A 20-year patent limit forces other industries to innovate, so why
> should the innately risk-averse record labels need any more than a 50-year
> monopoly? If Mr Purnell truly wants to foster creativity, he ought to
> broaden his musical tastes.