UK Gov't Recognizes That Songs Performed 50 Years Ago Don't Need Any Additional Incentive To Get Recorded

from the good-for-them dept

Last December, the UK gov't had some folks draw up the so-called "Gowers Report" looking at the question of copyright extension. While the report wasn't great, it certainly did recommend against copyright extension. It appears that the folks in the gov't saw through the online petition many dead musicians signed asking the gov't to ignore the report. That is, the UK gov't has in fact rejected the idea of extending copyrights for performance royalties on songs, so that those recorded 50 years ago no longer have to pay the performers (though, they do still have to pay the songwriters, who have longer copyright protection). Some musicians are up in arms about this, but that's only because they seem to think that copyright is a type of welfare system to support artists based on a single performance they did 50 years ago. It's not. Copyright's sole purpose is to create incentives to have that content created. If the content was created, then clearly the deal that the copyright offered was sufficient. Extending the deal afterwards makes no sense and goes against the very idea of copyright. It's saying that a song that was performed and recorded 50 years ago needs new incentives to have been performed and recorded 50 years ago. It's nice to see (for one of the first times) a gov't finally reject that argument.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    sam, Jul 25th, 2007 @ 6:31pm

    umm....

    i thought the basic rationale for the UK gov't to make their decision regarding the copyright issue was due to it's having to have to get into copyright issues with the EU, and that it really didn't want to do that....

    i got the feeling that if this was simply a UK decision, with no other countries/govts involved, then it might have gone the other way.....

    thoughts/comments...

    peace
    sam

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2007 @ 8:44pm

    ummm, "Happy Birthday" tune? or do we still have to pay royalties to that songwriter who placed 4 little words together and repeated them several times to a catchy sound?

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    ChurchHatesTucker, Jul 25th, 2007 @ 9:32pm

    "If the content was created, then clearly the deal that the copyright offered was sufficient."

    That's about as concise a statement against copywrite maximalism that I've seen yet.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    scate, Jul 25th, 2007 @ 10:14pm

    "ummm, "Happy Birthday" tune? or do we still have to pay royalties to that songwriter who placed 4 little words together and repeated them several times to a catchy sound?"

    Nope, still copyright.

    This was about the copyright of *phonorecordings* in Britain, not the copyright of the performance rights to the music. Recordings of performances have a separate copyright than the underlying music.

    I love it when people whine, "50 years is too short, what will I retire on?" Get over it. Most of us work without any chance of royalties. Why should an artist get money forever when hard working laborers, factory workers, office workers produce and toil for hourly wages.

    Perhaps a janitor should get paid royalties forever on the fine job he or she did cleaning the office, or the office worker should get royalties forever on the the proposal he or she created. Why should musicians be the only ones to get paid forever for working once? My sympathy is limited.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    artist, Jul 25th, 2007 @ 11:12pm

    Copyright

    Copyright has been turned on its head over the years. All the non-creative types want their slice of someone else's copyright.

    Copyright was supposed to be the "right" to "copy" belongs to the creator. Period! Not the government, not the press, not the whining uncreative mass of people.

    As an artist, the copyright belongs to me and it should be part of my estate when I die, passed on forever. I get really pissed off listening to adverts using pop songs from the 50s and 60s because the lazy, good for nothing advertising people haven't got a one creative bone in their collective bodies to dream up a catchy tune for their toilet paper.

    Copyright should belong to the artist, forever, and if the artist doesn't want it to be used for breakfast cereal and sports promotions, then he/she should be able to have it stopped.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    ranon, Jul 26th, 2007 @ 12:02am

    Copyright's sole purpose is to create incentives to have that content created.

    A statement that I can wholly agree to. Also (off topic) applicable to patents.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2007 @ 1:08am

    Re: Copyright

    "As an artist, the copyright belongs to me and it should be part of my estate when I die"

    In your world, I am sure there are descendants of the caveman, running around the court system, asking for copyright royalties on the wheel, fire and possibly a club - with maybe a cave painting here or there. look out Hana Barbara, Scate's lawyers are coming after your Flintstones characters.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    PaulT, Jul 26th, 2007 @ 1:12am

    Re: Copyright

    Erm..wrong. As an artist, you create art. Art is culture, and culture belongs to the people. If you create good, meaningful or successful art, it becomes a part of people's lives and makes those lives better.

    Copyright is a contract that states that in return for the entertainment and contribution to culture, you as the creator get a limited term exclusive right to make money from that art and control it. After the term of that contract ends, the right return to the public (e.g. it becomes "public domain"). You want to keep making money? Make more music or re-record the original songs. You want to prevent the ad guys from using the music? Tough. I feel for you on that point, but that's the price you pay as the creator for having made the cash in the first place.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2007 @ 4:37am

    Re:

    Perhaps a janitor should get paid royalties forever on the fine job he or she did cleaning the office, or the office worker should get royalties forever on the the proposal he or she created. Why should musicians be the only ones to get paid forever for working once? My sympathy is limited.


    I think a better example of this would be a construction worker getting paid for a building for as long as the building stands, since someone is still "gaining" something from the buliding, sorta like someone can still listen to the song 50 years later.

    Of course, I do agree that there should be a limit on how long someone benefits form a song.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 26th, 2007 @ 6:27am

    Fictional Scenario ...

    I perform a song when I am a teenager that becomes very popular and I make a lot of money off it for the following 15 years. After that I get very little out of the recording, but it remains residually popular with all of my fans. Then through whatever mechanisms it becomes quite popular with the general public again shortly before the copyright expires. Then a politician (who I disagree with on nearly every point) decides that he can draw on the recent renewed popularity by playing my original recording in his TV ad.

    Keep in mind that I am still alive, and that my voice is now being used to support ideas that are not my own and that I disagree with. Now this would be legal because my copyright has expired, but is this anywhere near fair to me?

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Stuart, Jul 26th, 2007 @ 7:58am

    Re: Fictional Scenario ...

    Who told you that life was fair.
    It is not. It has not ever been nor ever will be. There is no right to fairness. Stronger people are stronger. Not fair but fact. Smarter people are smarter. Not fair but fact.
    Please step down from your "I love all people and to live in a perfectly even socialist/communist world where all people are the same" pedestal and get one with a real life.
    If you make everyone equal and everything fair you will be creating CRAP. Never in history have I seen an example of fairness that raised the slow, stupid and weak. It has always lowered the fast, smart and strong.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Xanthir, FCD, Jul 26th, 2007 @ 9:35am

    100% Fair

    Keep in mind that I am still alive, and that my voice is now being used to support ideas that are not my own and that I disagree with. Now this would be legal because my copyright has expired, but is this anywhere near fair to me?

    This is completely fair. You made the song years ago and made your money off of it. Once you put it out there, it's not yours anymore - only the government's intervention allows you to claim that.

    Look up at the previous examples. An architect designs a high-rise. Let's say this is his life's work, it's really original and beautiful and everyone knows the architect that did it. Now, 20 years later, the building gets sold by its original owners and is turned into a strip club. Is this fair to the architect?

    YES. Because the architect doesn't have rights to his building after it's been built. Not legally, and not ethically or morally. The same should be true of music. A musician is a content producer in the exact same way that an architect is. The payment method is usually a bit different (it's something like an architect building things for free and then being given the right to collect rent for X many years), but the underlying structure is the same.

     

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  13.  
    icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), Jul 26th, 2007 @ 11:43am

    Grandfathering

    True arguments, Mike. I suppose that IF copyrights are ever extended (as Sonny Bono managed to do for the Mouse), they should NOT apply retroactively to existing content. Clearly, that content did not need additional protections since it already exists.

    I'm sure if a legislative body voted to reduce the duration of copyright protections, they would be lobbied, and would probably not apply the duration reduction to prior content - content that was created with the expectation of a longer copyright. But they would apply the shorter durations to new content. Grandfathering is fair in both cases.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    name, Jul 26th, 2007 @ 12:53pm

    Re:

    actually it was 5 words (excluding the name)

    - being an a$$



    peace
    NAME-less one

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    name, Jul 26th, 2007 @ 12:53pm

    Re: Re:

    i ment 7

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    name, Jul 26th, 2007 @ 12:54pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    sry, 4. u were right

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Schooley, Jul 26th, 2007 @ 1:59pm

    I suppose that IF copyrights are ever extended (as Sonny Bono managed to do for the Mouse), they should NOT apply retroactively to existing content.

    Uh, that's already happened. The Sonny Bono act DID effect recordings, not just Mickey Mouse. ALL commercial music recordings made in the US are subject to copyright until the year 2067. To put that in perspective, a book like Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle" is now in the public domain and can be published by any publishing house that wants to do so. However, a recording of say, John Phillip Sousa, that dates from the same period cannot be reissued by anybody for another 60 years. Unless, of course, those doing the re-issue pay a ridiculous amount to the copyright owner (if they can be located...another can of worms I won't get into here...)

    I find this immensely frustrating. I have a great deal of interest in older, mostly forgotten music. 80-90 percent of the blues and country recordings ever made have not been re-issued and won't be, because there isn't enough money to be made in doing so. However, you better believe that the labels who own the rights to these recordings would sue the pants off of anyone who tried to make these recordings available, even on a non-profit basis.

    I am a musician, and I feel for the guy in the "fictional scenario" mentioned above, but I have to say that our copyright laws are doing more harm than good as far as far as our nation's recorded heritage is concerned.

    Keep in mind that 90 percent of the history of recorded music is owned by the four major labels. They are doing very little to preserve much of this because it is simply not profitable to do so. Most Techdirt readers probably have little interest in, say, c&w 78's from 70 years ago, but it's an area of interest for me and it's painful seeing our nations entire cultural/musical heritage deteriorate with nobody doing anything about it...

    *off soapbox*

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Benefacio, Jul 30th, 2007 @ 4:06am

    Not good analsys at all

    Some musicians are up in arms about this, but that's only because they seem to think that copyright is a type of welfare system to support artists based on a single performance they did 50 years ago.



    Only a complete moron would make that presumption. They are up in arms, it seems to me, because the time limitation is a cap on earnings and market viability. In other words, they can't offer a product that people still want to buy because ownership is stripped away from them.



    I think a better example of this would be a construction worker getting paid for a building for as long as the building stands, since someone is still gaining something from the building, sorta like someone can still listen to the song 50 years later.



    Actually this can and does happen with buildings quite regularly; it is called a lease. You should also be aware that ii happens with more than just buildings. Automobiles, furniture, even clothing can be leased for as long as they exist. Fortunately ownership is not automatically stripped away after 50 years so it can continue to make money long after the job has been completed. It also has the potential to make more money than an outright sale would. Funny how the world works, is it not?



    Art is culture, and culture belongs to the people.



    Culture indeed belongs to the people but you do not have a right to break into my house and take my paintings. Nor do you have the right to break in and make copies of them. If I record a song today and wait 51 years to release it I still get 50 years of copy protection; provided I release it in a format congruent with that time and the 50 year limit still applies. The time limit only applies to provable times of creation. My point is that songs do not automatically belong to the people, whoever the people are.



    Copyrights sole purpose is to create incentives to have that content created.



    Copyright provides for a legal structure establishing who has the right to money gained from the distribution of songs, as well as other copyrightable content. The theory, which I think has been suitably proven over time, is that someone allowed to make money from the distribution of content will be able to devote more time to the distribution of content, devote more time to making new content to distribute or do both; thereby increasing the overall abundance of content.



    The time limit was established because it is more difficult to differentiate between content than between buildings, cars or clothing. How different does new content have to be in order to be considered new? The longer the time limit the greater the required difference OR the more exacting standards have to be in determining difference. The theory here is that even with the most exacting standards we will eventually reach a stage where no new work is sufficiently different and no one can make money on new content.

     

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