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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]>
06/17/2005 12:35 PM

        To:     "Dick Spottswood" <[log in to unmask]>, "April R. Gambill"
<[log in to unmask]>, "Malcolm - Venerable Music"
<[log in to unmask]>
        cc:
        Subject:        Copyright wrongs: we can't let the music industry
suits stifle creativity




      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
routine?

      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.



http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,1072-1657575,00.html