The original intent of Copyright was to give the creator of the work a 14 year monopoly to monetise their work, without it being copied. In turn this would give the creator an incentive to create more works, especially if a work proved to be valuable. Once the term expired (the creator did have the option to renew for another 14 years), the work would fall into the public domain and people would be free to build on it and use it. It’s how Rock and Roll came to be, by reusing blues music in the public domain.
But not all works are valuable. Right now, there are over 30 million songs on streaming services that have no commercial value nor have they being heard. There are millions of books written which hold no commercial value whatsoever and films/tv shows made which no one cares about.
Myspace lost over 50 million songs when it accidently wiped or threw away (depending on who you believe) their servers which held the songs and they had no back up. No one even cared at this cultural loss except archivists.
The issues we have happening today in Copyright are all due to the movie studios, record labels and book publishers. Up until 1998, they had gotten so many laws passed in the name of protecting creators, but in reality, it was to protect their business models. They knew that if they didn’t hold the works of others, they would be challenged to survive.
During this time, they also sold the story that an idea is like real property (aka, intellectual property) and that if someone else comes up with a similar idea, they have stolen your property. So they kept pushing this line and they kept on saying that copyright needs stricter enforcement and longer terms.
And people believed it. But back then when these organisations held the power and creators were still alive, it was all good. But suddenly, creators started dying and their copyrights got passed on to their heirs and suddenly the labels are getting sued.
And now, these organisations are ignoring the law and have no interest in retuning the copyrights back to the creators, because in the recording business, the labels know that the more valuable copyrights they hold, the more power they have at the bargaining table.
A member from The New York Dolls’, Southside Johnny and Paul Collins are taking Sony Music to court, while John Waite and Joe Ely are taking UMG to court, all because the labels are not doing what the law says they should do.
After 35 years, creators have the right to take back their copyrights, as long as they serve the labels with a Notice Of Termination. In these cases, the creators have done everything right, but the labels are still saying NO.
Sony has alleged that the music created by “The New York Dolls” was under a “work for hire” agreement, which the band has challenged.
One thing is certain here, the labels don’t want a precedent set, in case they lose, so they will settle out of court, in the same way they settled out of court for Don Henley, Tom Scholz, David Coverdale, Eminem and many others before that.
And then they will repeat the “works made for hire” cycle again, when another artist who has created valuable art wants to reclaim their copyrights. And off to court they will go, just to settle out of court. Ridiculous, isn’t it.
Creators should have the same rage at cases like these as they do about Spotify’s appeal to the Copyright Royalty Board’s rates increase.
Here is a Billboard article, outlining the rage of songwriters against Spotify, but nothing against the labels for not returning the rights of songs to the creators.
In the letter, the following is mentioned;
“Our fight is for all songwriters: those struggling to build their career, those in the middle class and those few who have reached your Secret Genius level.”
Umm, sorry, but you guys don’t fight for all songwriters. And you don’t fight for me. A letter written by a marketing person from the Publishers or Labels is proof of that.
The majority of songwriters who are struggling to build their career haven’t made any coin, although they wished they did. So this class of songwriters wouldn’t benefit in any way from the royalty rate increase. And their works will not suddenly become huge, just because the royalty pool was increased.
The middle class if they own their copyrights would see some dollars come their way however the majority of monies would still go to the organisations who hold the copyrights and the artists they hold who represent the 1% of the recording business and have value in their works. And the songwriters will still get pennies because of their shitty deals with the labels and publishers.
And what about the takedown mess happening in the name of Copyright. YouTube cops the blame, however the blame also lives with the organisations sending down takedown requests without doing their investigations to see if the takedown is legit.
Lionsgate took issue with YouTuber AngryJoeShow giving “Hellboy” a bad review, so they took down his video by making a copyright claim (claiming that they own the video). This also means that Lionsgate will receive all the revenue earned by the video. It sounds like Copyright as Censorship for me.
Previously, a YouTuber called “The FatRat” went to war against a Colombian music company after the company claimed a tune which TheFatRat created as theirs. The FatRat issues were solved when YouTube decided to investigate and saw it as a bunch of B.S and removed the claim.
There are issues from YouTube’s side of things as well, as they just take the copyright claims from others as being true, and then when the YouTuber appeals, the organisation which sent the copyright claim has the power to decide whether to grant the appeal of the claim it originally made. To me, this is all B.S. and putting power in the hands of organizations without any due process.
A company representing Disney, made a claim on a Darth Vader video put up by a YouTube channel called “StarWarsTheory”. The channel created a fan film about Darth Vader with all the necessary approvals from Lucasfilm to do it and monetise it. Eventually the claim was lifted by Lucasfilm themselves, who told Disney, this isn’t cool. Even Warner Music Group via their publishing arm Warner/Chappell, put in a claim over the music in the fan film, which they said has notes similar to “The Imperial March”.
And the problem is not just YouTube’s problem. Instagram took down a video by will.i.am because someone sent a copyright claim on it.
“We’ve removed the video you posted at 9:55 am on January 26, 2019 because it included the following content: VIBRATIONS pt. 1 pt.2 by The Black Eye Peas,” reads the alleged Instagram email.”
But hang on a second, will.i.am formed The Black Eye Peas and wrote the song.
Who knows if it was a phishing scam or the corporate copyright holder sending takedown notices via bots. Just goes to show the ridiculousness of the world we live in.
And we still have the stupid legal fight between Twisted Sister/Universal Music and Australian politician Clive Palmer which is going to the courts in June.
We all know that Palmer’s “Australia Aint Gonna Cop It” is a rip off from “We’re Not Gonna Take It”. And we all know that Palmer enquired about using the music of Twisted Sister but when he heard the price, decided to do his own derivative version of the song.
And of course, Clive being the business man that refuses to pay for anything, including the wages of his workers, is saying that his melody is based on “O Come, All Ye Faithful”, a song which is out of copyright.
Jack White is also a Eurovision winner, without even writing a song for Eurovision. What he did do is write a song called “Seven Nation Army” and since the winning song “Toy” had sections which sounded similar to “Seven Nation Army”, Jack White has been added as a co-writer because his label took the writers of “Toy” to court.
Again, these kind of cases puts the idea out there that the notes order of “Seven Nation Army” are so original that only Jack White wrote a progression like that, free from influence.
AND FINALLY for all those people who still believe that the entertainment industry is getting killed by piracy, here is what you should read, The Sky Is Rising, which details how much new content is coming out.