Copyright, Music, My Stories, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

Public Domain 2018

In the US and Australia, we don’t get nothing entering into the Public Domain. The US from next year (unless Disney, the MPAA and the RIAA lobby really hard) will get works released in the 1920s entering the public domain. For Australia, I think we had works up to 1955 in our Public Domain and then the law got changed to be plus 70 years after death, so we will not get any works into our public domain until 2026. And these works will be from 1956.

And the Copyright industries are still pushing hard for longer copyright term extensions because once the person who created the works to be under copyright passes, it’s the corporation who benefits.

Duke University has a cool list of what could have entered the public domain on January 1, 2018.

Now you need to remember, these works would have been in the Public Domain, under the Copyright Law that existed until 1978.

Basically all works from 1961 would be in the Public Domain this year.

“Current US law extends copyright for 70 years after the date of the author’s death, and corporate “works-for-hire” are copyrighted for 95 years after publication. But prior to the 1976 Copyright Act (which became effective in 1978), the maximum copyright term was 56 years—an initial term of 28 years, renewable for another 28 years. Under those laws, works published in 1961 would enter the public domain on January 1, 2018, where they would be “free as the air to common use.” Under current copyright law, we’ll have to wait until 2057. And no published works will enter our public domain until 2019. The laws in other countries are different—thousands of works are entering the public domain in Canada and the EU on January 1.”

Duke Public Domain 2018 webpage

So what books would be entering the public domain if the U.S had the pre-1978 copyright laws?

  • Joseph Heller, Catch-22
  • J.D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey
  • Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land
  • William S. Burroughs, The Soft Machine
  • Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth
  • Roald Dahl, James and the Giant Peach

“The Soft Machine” by Burroughs broke all Copyright rules back then anyway as it was created by using the “cut-up technique,” where existing text from books got cut up and rearranged to create a new work.

The above books are but a fraction of what would be entering the public domain on January 1. And if they did enter the Public Domain, people would be free to use these books for whatever they want. Re-write their own versions of the books, modernise them, make them into space operas, make a film from them, create a stage play from them, write a concept album from the stories and so forth.

Instead, people from the U.S will have to wait until 2057 to have these works enter the Public Domain.

What films from 1961 would be entering the public domain if the U.S had the pre-1978 copyright laws?

  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  • West Side Story
  • The Guns of Navarone
  • The Parent Trap
  • Splendor in the Grass
  • Judgment at Nuremberg
  • The Misfits
  • The Hustler

“If these films were in the public domain, you could use them in your own works, just as they used earlier works in theirs. West Side Story (music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Arthur Laurents) was free to draw upon Romeo and Juliet because Shakespeare’s work was in the public domain. And as Judge Richard Posner observed, if the underlying works were copyrighted, “Romeo and Juliet itself would have infringed Arthur Brooke’s The Tragicall Historye of Romeo and Juliet . . . which in turn would have infringed several earlier Romeo and Juliets, all of which probably would have infringed Ovid’s story of Pyramus and Thisbe.” One work inspires another. That is how the public domain feeds creativity.”

Duke Public Domain 2018 webpage

While popular films have a larger shelf life and commercial life, 90% of films made are forgotten. The true tragedy is that these films are disintegrating while preservation libraries wait for their copyright terms to expire.

What 1961 music would be entering the public domain if the U.S had the pre-1978 copyright laws?

  • Patsy Cline’s classic Crazy (Willie Nelson)
  • Stand By Me (Ben E. King, Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller)
  • Runaway (Del Shannon, Max Crook)
  • Let’s Twist Again (Kal Mann, Dave Appell)
  • Surfin’ (Brian Wilson, Mike Love)
  • Crying (Roy Orbison, Joe Melson)

Again, it’s just a sample; however you would be able to use the above songs in your own songs and perform them without permission or a fee. The same way the above songs used other songs as inspiration, you would be free to use them as inspiration. Instead these musical works remain copyrighted until 2057.

Like West Side Story, some of the hit songs from 1961 borrowed from earlier works. Elvis Presley’s Surrender (Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman) was adapted from the 1902 Neapolitan ballad “Torna a Surriento” (Ernesto and Giambattista de Curtis), and his Can’t Help Falling in Love (Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore, George David Weiss) is derived from the 1784 French song “Plaisir d’amour” (Jean-Paul-Égide Martini).

Duke Public Domain 2018 webpage

A U.S Congressional Research Service study showed just 2% of works between 55 and 75 years old still make money. So for the sake of a few films and few corporations who benefits, the Public, which is millions upon millions strong is robbed.

“Locking up culture does no one any good, except for a small number of copyright holders on the few works that are still economically viable.”

Techdirt

The Public Domain Review page as a Class of 2018 article. Check out the class that should in the Public Domain all around the world, not just in some countries like the UK and Canada.

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Copyright, Music, My Stories, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

The Copyright Games

It is big dollars to an artist when they sell their copyrights to a business entity to administer. For example. Downtown Music Publishing will have paid Nikki Sixx some dollars to acquire his Motley Crue song catalogue.

Deals like these are meant to be a partnership between publisher and artist where both benefit. The Publisher forks out some cash as an incentive and then aims to recoup that investment by licensing the songs to commercials, movie/tv placements, gaming or some other outlet that requires music. The publisher keeps a portion of the income and then charges an administration fee on the rest.

But, these days, publishers and record labels have amassed a lot of copyrights and when they have business models based on holding these copyrights, you have a copyright system that benefits a corporation more than an artist. So that gives them power in negotiations.

And is YouTube really that bad to the recording industry. Read the Guardian article about how the existing power players believe YouTube is “anti-artist”.

So can someone tell me how these existing power players find  a hardware maker called Apple as “artist-friendly” and how those same people find a music service like Spotify and Pandora as “anti-artist”. Let’s not kid ourselves here. Most artists (old and majority of new) want the 1980’s pay structure, the signing bonus, the $20 CD, even though it cost the label, $1 to make. But these same people love free gmail, free Facebook, free something else. And yet they still scream to be paid like it’s the 80’s. As the Guardian article states;

“Although many have a conflicted relationship with YouTube, there is a generational conflict dividing the field. Those in the “old” music industry want to keep things the way they always were, nailing down copyright in every way possible. Yet around them a “new” business is emerging – prescient and whip-smart artists, managers, labels and media organisations – who see YouTube as a facilitator of a creative renaissance rather than a death sentence.”

Is the system perfect?

Of course not, however neither was the music eco-system when the record labels controlled it and due to lobbying the labels had a government granted monopoly on it. But would the artist prefer. Napster like piracy that offered $0 into the eco-system or a platform that offers millions. And when you combine this platform with other streaming platforms and other ways to monetise music, you get to see different income streams. Because the people have spoken and they don’t want overpriced CD’s.

“With all the major label contracts coming up for renegotiation it makes absolute sense [to attack it]. These are huge businesses run by intelligent people and as much as it’s a mud-slinging exercise at the moment, I am hopeful they will reach a middle ground where artists are being [properly] remunerated and YouTube continues to grow its platform and its offerings to artists. YouTube has given us and many independent artists an audience and an opportunity to build a brand. That’s allowed us to exercise a business that goes far beyond what’s on YouTube.”

And with all of these deals being made, the companies holding the copyrights want the Government to step in and change the royalty rates because the artist is getting screwed and not them. So, on one side you have Music publishers like ASCAP and BMI, along with their “stars” arguing that streaming has led to a reduction in songwriters’ income. Lucky the Justice Department of the US declined their request.

“And in a move that has caused widespread worry throughout the music publishing world — the side of the business that deals with the lucrative copyrights for songwriting — the government has also said that, according to its interpretation of the consent decrees, the music agencies must change a major aspect of how they license music. The agencies must now adopt a policy known as “100 percent licensing,” which means that any party who controls part of a composition can issue a license for the whole thing. In the case of major pop hits, which tend to have many songwriters, there can sometimes be a dozen or more parties involved.”

And now the business model based these publishers have based on a government granted monopoly by extending copyright laws is threatened by another government decision. But hey, “artist friendly” Apple is putting in their own request to increase the royalties because if that does happen, it will kill off all of Apple’s competitors like Spotify and Pandora. And then Apple will have a business model based on another government granted monopoly.

Seriously to see how fucked up copyright is, the fact that a politician needed to settle with Rude Music, the company owned by Frank Sullivan from Survivor for $25,000 because of “copyright infringement” is a joke. Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee used “Eye of the Tiger” during a rally. And this is somehow copyright infringement because Rude Music believes he should have asked for permission. The truth is, Frank Sullivan doesn’t agree with views of the politician and wants the populace vote.

And Queen has joined a long list of artists to send cease and desist letters to Donald Trump because even though his campaign does the right thing and pays a licensing fee to the publishers to use songs in their catalogue, if the artist disagrees with the views of the politicians they believe they have a power to stop it. All in the name of being liked.

To close out my rant, the Electronic Frontiers Foundation sums up my copyright argument in one nice paragraph.

And on it goes. Again and again, large content owners seem to think that the only way to fight unauthorized media consumption is to expand copyright. But more copyright won’t change users’ behavior. What it will do is chill innovation and free expression online. The way to bring in more paying customers isn’t to write new law; it’s to build a better product and get it to more customers at the right price.

 

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Music

PPCA (Phonographic Performance Company of Australia)states its an important win for artists

There is an article over at Computerworld about how the Federal Court of Australia “ruled that Internet simulcasts of radio programs are not broadcasts under the Copyright Act and therefore are not covered by existing licences granted to commercial radio stations.” 

The Federal Court believes that the a radio program transmitted from a “terrestrial transmitter is a different broadcasting service from the delivery of the same radio program using the internet.”

This is typical of the record labels still keeping one foot in the past and not moving with the present.  It is clear that the recording business survives by sales of recorded music.  Since recorded music revenues are not what they used to be compared to the glory years of the 90’s when everybody was re-purchasing their scratched LP’s or chewed up tapes onto CD, the labels have tried every lobbying/bribery trick in the book to get legislation passed that gives them back the control that the Internet has taken away.

Could this the labels secretly trying to kill off radio simulcasting so that the streaming services are all that remain, like Spotify, which the labels have a stake in.  As the Australian Copyright Council said, the decision “leaves open the possibility for new licences to be negotiated for content that is streamed by way of radio simulcast on the Internet.”

Based on the labels past experience, the labels will insist on a super high licence fees as they hate the current statutory cap on commercial radio who need to pay just one percent of their gross income.  Therefore i am sure the radio’s wont pay this new excessive rate and hence the labels will kill this promotional outlet.

“This is an important win for artists and labels whose music is used widely on the internet to help drive profits for Australia’s radio industry,” said PPCA CEO, Dan Rosen.

I wonder how many artists where signed up for this action.  I wonder how much of the new fees would go back to artists as the labels are renowned for their creative accounting practices.   And what artists are we talking about here, as most independent artists don’t get played on mainstream radio.

To me Radio should be the last thing up and coming artists should strive for.  PSY was broken by YouTube without any mainstream publicity.  He dropped Gangnam Style without publicity and the online world built it into the monster it became.  The mainstream channels just picked up the crumbs.

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