There is a reason why Copyright terms are very long.
Yep, older recordings are outselling newer recordings. So instead of those older recordings being in the public domain as they should have been, they are locked up for terms that seem like they will never end.
So what does this tell us about people and music consumption?
We don’t mind purchasing music, especially music recorded a long time ago which has shown itself as enduring and forever. Hell in twenty years’ time, don’t be surprised if “Hail To The King” and “The Blackening” are outselling all before them. But in 20 years’ time, who would benefit from those catalogue sales.
Would Robb Flynn from Machine Head (or the rest of the guys that played and performed on the album) benefit from those catalogue sales?
Same deal for Avenged Sevenfold.
“Hamlet” by Shakespeare is the biggest seller when it comes to books. The book was written in the 16th century, in the public domain for centuries after that and people still could make money from it. So is the public domain such a bad thing.
Would Hamlet be as popular today if it was locked away under copyright protectionist practices.
Think of all of the people who have made money from longer Copyright terms.
- Lawyers (from all of the lawsuits)
- Record Labels (from signing artists to one-sided contracts)
- Publishing/Licensing Agencies (set up by the record labels, so they could double dip)
- Collection Agencies (set up the record labels, so they could triple dip)
Each song I write has two separate copyrights. One for the sound recording and the other for the musical work.
If I sign a record deal, the label will licence the rights to exploit the ‘sound recording’ copyright from me (and then own it for a long time) and the publisher (an agency set up the label) will take care of my ‘musical work’ copyrights. Who benefits from this arrangement in the long run?
If I write a song with other people, I would need to put a contract in place that agrees on the percentage splits.
If I write a song and I have a session musician or just a friend who comes in to play an instrument, I would need to have an agreement in place (via writing, which means lawyers) about what payment they will get for playing on the song and how does that transfer over to royalty payments down the line on the sound recording.
Because Copyright Laws are written to suit the interests of the Corporations who licence (in other words, own) copyrights, we live in a world where copyright is a mess.
A court decided that Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams are guilty of copyright infringement for their hit song “Blurred Lines,” because of a “feel”. The court ordered the duo to pay $7.4 million to the estate of Marvin Gaye.
Yes, that’s right, the children of Marvin Gaye, who have contributed nothing to the musical industry have a secure pension fund set up because copyright terms changed to include another 70 years after death. The Corporations give them a bone, while they take in the gold.
The bigger the song, expect the lawsuit to come.
Even when people do get clearances to use the music of another artist, they still get sued. The Verve’s Richard Ashcroft negotiated a cost to use a sample from the Rolling Stones ““The Last Time” for “Bitter Sweet Symphony”. The Stones sued after, when the song became a hit, because the sample that was cleared was the song.
In the end, Copyright is important for a creator, however the current mess that is known as Copyright, benefits the Corporation, otherwise known as the Record Labels, the Movie Studios, the Publishing and Collection Agencies and of course, the Lawyers more than the creator.
John Fogerty said something similar like “Get yourself a lawyer to look over the contract and then get yourself another lawyer to look over the contract and what the other lawyer said” after he was duped out of his Creedence songs;
For those that don’t know, I will let Wikipedia tell his story about being sued for copyright infringement because he copied himself;
John Fogerty was the lead singer of the popular rock group Creedence Clearwater Revival. In 1970, while part of the group, he wrote the song “Run Through the Jungle.” Fantasy Records, the record label to which Creedence Clearwater Revival was signed, eventually acquired the exclusive publishing rights to the song.
Creedence Clearwater Revival disbanded in 1972, and Fogerty began a solo career with another music label. In 1985, Fogerty published the song “The Old Man Down the Road”, which he released on Warner Bros. Records.
Fantasy sued Fogerty for copyright infringement, claiming that “The Old Man Down the Road” was essentially the music to “Run Through the Jungle” with new words.
So I end this post, the same way I started it; there is a reason why Copyright terms are very long.