Kiwi Musician Says Public Domain Only Exists So You Can 'Rip Off Dead People's Works'

from the someone-send-him-a-copy-of-james-boyle's-book dept

Here's a brief article from New Zealand, which suggests that part of the US's proposal for the TPP agreement is to extend copyrights across the various participating countries to life plus 70 years -- what it already is in the US, but 20 years longer than it is in many countries. That's not too surprising. However, what struck me was a quote from New Zealand musician Ray Columbus who appears to be in favor not just of extending copyright, but of wiping out the public domain entirely:
"Some people believe in public domain. Why? Just so you can rip off dead people's works? That's pathetic."
No, Ray, what's pathetic is not knowing how culture works, and the importance of building on those who came before. Having never heard of Ray Colombus, I decided to look around -- and lo and behold, it appears that in his younger days Columbus recognized this. An interesting bio of Columbus reveals that his band, Ray Columbus and the Invaders, was originally a cover band who copied their dance moves (and, yes, as crazy as it seems, dance moves can be covered by copyright) from American servicemen on leave in New Zealand. Oops.

Other bios note how strongly he was influenced by other artists, such as Elvis, Cliff Richard and the Beatles. His one big hit, She's a Mod, is a cover song. Yes, it was licensed, but apparently the changes they made to the song were basically to copy things from the Beatles. And that's fine, because the fact is, people build on culture. It's not just about "ripping off" others. So it's rather hypocritical of Columbus to decry others for the same practice.

What it comes down to is that poor Ray Columbus seems to think copyright is a welfare system because he apparently failed to invest wisely or plan for retirement:
When 60s pop star Columbus suffered a stroke nearly four years ago, he was able to pay the bills because every time a song he has performed gets played, he still collects a fee.

"The performing fees I get give a dribbling of an income that's so important to artists."
How is that fair compared to most other professions? The bricklayer who has a stroke isn't able to pay the bills because by collecting a fee every time someone uses a building he built. No, the bricklayer and pretty much everyone else in every other profession has to actually save money and plan for their future. What makes Columbus so special that he gets to skip over that part?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2012 @ 7:45am

    "His one big hit, She's a Mod, is a cover song. Yes, it was licensed, but apparently the changes they made to the song were basically to copy things from the Beatles. And that's fine, because the fact is, people build on culture. It's not just about "ripping off" others."

    Clearly, you still don't understand the difference between influence and copying.

    Perhaps some music lessons would help.

     

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      HATS, Mar 14th, 2012 @ 7:50am

      Re:

      Music lessons are piracy. Didn't you know you need audio rights to be able to reproduce as sound something that is printed on a page?

       

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      :Lobo Santo (profile), Mar 14th, 2012 @ 7:59am

      Re: !_!

      Music lessons?

      Music lessons??

      What, so he can learn to play dead people's music?!!

      WHERE'S THE HUMANITY?!??

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2012 @ 8:12am

      Re:

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2012 @ 8:14am

      Re:

      Clearly, you still don't understand the difference between what is legally ok and what is actually attempted because getting to close to the line and accidently straying over it is catastrophic.

      Perhaps some legal lessons would help.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2012 @ 8:17am

      Re:

      "Clearly, you still don't understand the difference between influence and copying."

      Good luck with that defence in court.

       

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      Sketaful, Mar 14th, 2012 @ 8:59am

      Re:

      He didn't make a song "influenced" by some other song. He did a cover of if "Aka copied it" and did some minor changes to it.

      It would be like I'd copy Windows 8 and change the logos and names everywhere to something else before releasing it as my own.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2012 @ 10:40am

        Re: Re:

        "He didn't make a song "influenced" by some other song. He did a cover of if "Aka copied it" and did some minor changes to it."

        And paid for the rights to do it. Non-issue, I think.

         

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      TtfnJohn (profile), Mar 14th, 2012 @ 4:52pm

      Re:

      I suspect music lessons would help YOU more. Influencing means that an musician often studies what did work for those s/he is influenced by, copying, rehearsing, copying some more, rehearsing some more and then going on to do your own work different from the "influencers" as a performer or song writer while hoping you don't end up copying a 5 or 6 note riff and end up getting sued for it. As in what happened with "My Sweet Lord".

      Every musician goes through that, indeed music lessons are all about copying as the music you get to play is always other people's because you aren't there yet to come up with something of your own.

      In this case the song's a cover, licensed and paid for at the time so who cares?

      That and you miss the point that why should be be entitled to a welfare scheme called copyright because he copied a song, legally, and made a few changes to it to hide the fact that it's a Beatles song when other professions, crafts and trades aren't entitled to that kind of thing.

      Okay, he had a hit and good on him. That doesn't change that he doesn't understand the public domain or what it means. He gets a dribble of an income from COPYING (legally in the world of copyright and licensing) from someone else. So does Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono representing John Lennon's estate. Not that they'll notice it.

      Again, perhaps some music lessons would help you, too. More, I suspect that they'd help Mike.

       

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    HATS, Mar 14th, 2012 @ 7:49am

    Does this mean we can get Jason DeRulo to stop lifting parts from good songs to make bad songs?

    First he ruined Harry Belafonte, now Toto... is there no end to this mockery of culture?!

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2012 @ 8:12am

      Re:

      No if you pay a large company some money they let you destroy any aspect of culture you want. You can do the sane thing and just completely ignore the jag though.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2012 @ 8:01am

    Collecting royalties in the name of dead people, OTOH, is in no way ripping anyone off, that's just inspiring you to create.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2012 @ 8:02am

    Yes, could not agree more. Infringement is theft and the public domain is necrophilia.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2012 @ 8:03am

    "What makes Columbus so special that he gets to skip over that part?"

    Because he's a musician. And musicians keep Cthulhu at bay. When the last musician calls it quits, the world will end. Something that is likely to happen this year because of piracy. Knowing this, they are wise not to paticipate in pension plans.

     

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    Joe Publius (profile), Mar 14th, 2012 @ 8:06am

    I'm pretty sure the dead don't care a whit about who uses their works. I don't recall Homer raising a fuss when Troy came out.

    The only people who seem to care are relatives who had nothing to do with the work, and the lawyers from licensing companies.

     

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      HATS, Mar 14th, 2012 @ 8:06am

      Re:

      And baby jesus.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2012 @ 8:10am

      Re:

      I'm pretty sure the dead would love it if their work was free to be enjoyed by everyone. I know I would. It's the only way of becoming immortal. So when I die, please, use my work as much as possible.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2012 @ 8:18am

        Re: Re:

        I've recently decided to put my money where my mouth is in regards to all this stuff. Any creative work I produce, even ones I want to make money off, will have a free creative commons copy available. My bands working away on our first EP and I fully intend to realise a CC copy along with what ever other copies we make (connect with fans and give them reasons to buy... I think I've heard that some where around here before ha)

        If I ever am lucky enough to create something people enjoy and may enjoy after my death I don't want it locked up behind what ever mess copyright is at that stage.

         

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          Prisoner 201, Mar 14th, 2012 @ 8:53am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I would not be surprised if there is an attempt to retroactively expand Copyright to cover CC at some point.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2012 @ 1:15pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            My understanding is that CC is copyrighted, but you're giving a license that more or less says, "Hey, do what you want with this." instead of a license that says, "In addition to copyright, WE'RE EXPANDING OUR RIGHTS!".

             

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              Prisoner 201, Mar 15th, 2012 @ 7:37am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              That doesn't sound like it will generate much money for the Big Media.

              So, like I said, it will probably be retroactively changed to life + 70; all rights reserved.

               

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      MrWilson, Mar 14th, 2012 @ 8:23am

      Re:

      Maybe Homer didn't raise a fuss because Troy hardly resembled his masterpiece at all.

       

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        Nathan F (profile), Mar 14th, 2012 @ 8:35am

        Re: Re:

        All the more reason to raise a fuss for ruining his work and giving people a bad impression about what he wrote.

         

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        Joe Publius (profile), Mar 14th, 2012 @ 2:07pm

        Re: Re:

        Maybe Homer didn't raise a fuss because Troy hardly resembled his masterpiece at all.

        Maybe Homer is a Brad Pitt fan? Or Eric Bana, I've liked over half of the movies he's been in.

        I think we can all agree it had nothing to do with Orlando Bloom.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2012 @ 8:07am

    sounds as if he has made a minimal contribution for the rewards he is getting in return. perhaps if he had been any good as a musician/performer, he would be in better shape?

     

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    weneedhelp (profile), Mar 14th, 2012 @ 8:12am

    But but but... the artists!!

    "Ninety-five years is excessive. It's not going to be benefiting the artists, the creators. It's going to benefiting those who've purchased the rights to the music", said Green Party list MP Gareth Hughes.

    But but but... the artists!!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2012 @ 8:28am

    When you "buy" a song you purchase the rights to it. It costs way more than licensing a song for personal use. When you hire a bricklayer, you are paying them to lay down bricks for a building that you OWN.

    If you don't want artists to get paid, simply purchase the rights to the songs and then you will be the one getting paid. Stop comparing apples to oranges.

     

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      Richard (profile), Mar 14th, 2012 @ 9:43am

      Re:

      The apples to oranges argument has been debunked.

      The point is that the whole concept of purchasing "rights" is itself a fabrication.

      WHen I by a brick I get to do anything I like with the brick by default.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2012 @ 11:29am

      Re:

      When you "buy" a song you purchase the rights to it. It costs way more than licensing a song for personal use. When you hire a bricklayer, you are paying them to lay down bricks for a building that you OWN.
      Way to miss the point. Please explain *why* there is this difference.

      If you don't want artists to get paid
      Oh, I see - you're being willfully ignorant. Sorry, I didn't realize you were missing the point deliberately.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2012 @ 4:05pm

      Re:

      So what why bricklayers can't sell you just the right of use and not the bricks you don't own the bricks and if you use those bricks to make any money you should pay them something no?

       

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    Andrew (profile), Mar 14th, 2012 @ 8:30am

    The part about the bricklayer is so spot on I'm going to steal it and use it, unlicensed, in my own arguments.

     

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      Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Mar 14th, 2012 @ 3:58pm

      Re: The part about the bricklayer is so spot on I'm going to steal it and use it, unlicensed, in my own arguments.

      I prefer an analogy to toilet cleaners. Because if those who claim that the content creators who work so hard automatically deserve to get paid had a point, then the hardest-working people in the world would be the highest-paid, and since when did anyone work harder than the toilet cleaners?

      And think of the fact that, as a result of their hard work, you not only get to enjoy using a clean toilet, but you also avoid catching a disease that could bugger up the rest of your life. So therefore you owe royalties to the cleaners for the privilege of living healthily the rest of your life—why shouldn’t they get a percentage out of that? After all, you are benefiting from use of their sanitary property rights. Do you really want to be a sanitright pirate, and just have your health for free? We need stronger sanitright-enforcement laws now!

       

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    Zakida Paul (profile), Mar 14th, 2012 @ 8:33am

    Once again - USA = Schoolyard bully.

    What right do they have to push another country towards extending copyright? That is the real issue here.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2012 @ 8:45am

    Why is it not fair? Means of compensation vary widely among industries, not to mention that in many cases a significant portion of compensation is wrapped-up with associated benefits plans.

    Is it really that you do not like a royalty-based means of compensation, as opposed to a fixed price for labor?

     

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      DCX2, Mar 14th, 2012 @ 10:24am

      Re:

      Your straw man was "you do not like a royalty-based means of compensation." No one ever said that.

      Copyright is supposed to make an incentive to create new works, and yet the perpetual Copyright that lasts beyond the death of the author is clearly in no way encouraging new works from that author. Handing the copyrights over to the estate certainly doesn't help, either; when was the last time any of F. Scott Fitzgerald's heirs created any new works?

       

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 14th, 2012 @ 11:37am

      Re:

      Is it really that you do not like a royalty-based means of compensation, as opposed to a fixed price for labor?


      No, it's that I understand the importance of the public domain, and understand the difference between incentives to create and a welfare system.

      Pity that you don't.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2012 @ 1:05pm

        Re: Re:

        In a welfare system one generally does nothing and receives something in return.

        In an incentive system one generally does something with the hope of receiving something in return.

        Where we differ is that I happen to believe copyright law is predicated upon an incentive system.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2012 @ 1:24pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Say you make one album that's a hit and then stop making music period. Fast forward 30 years into the future, assuming a label didn't steal your rights away, you're still getting paid but you're no longer creating anything new. Now fast forward 70 years. You're dead but your family is now making money off of something they (probably) had no hand in making. While you're alive getting paid isn't as big a deal, but once you die, your family is living off a welfare system because they have no incentive to create. They did nothing and are now gaining, as per your definition.

          Now if a label steals your rights, then it's even more of a welfare system for them. They gave you a loan, and are now making money off something they didn't create while waiting for you to pay back the loan.

           

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          Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Mar 14th, 2012 @ 4:01pm

          Re: Where we differ is that I happen to believe copyright law is predicated upon an incentive system.

          How does that work, then, when you can continue to receive a never-ending stream of money without putting in an ounce of extra effort? Or that your descendants can continue to receive that money after you die? Please explain, where exactly is the “incentive system” in that?

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2012 @ 9:07pm

            Re: Re: Where we differ is that I happen to believe copyright law is predicated upon an incentive system.

            The incentive was to create the original work in the first instance.

             

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              Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Mar 15th, 2012 @ 4:29am

              Re: The incentive was to create the original work in the first instance.

              That’s it? Just the one work? With no incentive to create more than the one? Why is that good?

              (Yes, this guy was a one-hit wonder.)

               

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          Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2012 @ 4:07pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Where we differ is that although predicted in an incentive system it is not used as one.

           

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    Baldaur Regis (profile), Mar 14th, 2012 @ 8:48am

    ...everyone else in every other profession has to actually save money and plan for their future. What makes Columbus so special that he gets to skip over that part?

    It's almost like the original copyright framers thought "Wow, these long-haired creative types are so scatterbrained they can barely put their shoes on. Let's give them something so we don't have to keep seeing them at the back door begging for scraps."
    /sarcasm

    Is copyright insulting to artists?

     

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      The Devil's Coachman (profile), Mar 14th, 2012 @ 9:21am

      Re:

      No, but "artists" flogging copyright are insulting to audiences. Here's another wanker whose music I will make certain never to purchase, or even listen to the crap at all. I actually do buy music, but try to never patronize these parasites in particular.

       

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    Berenerd (profile), Mar 14th, 2012 @ 9:31am

    Just sayin...

    If not for the public domain he would have to pay for every note he played because some other artists used that note before him.

     

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    Bengie, Mar 14th, 2012 @ 10:48am

    Context

    Is this the reverse issue of taking something out of context?

    "Some people believe in public domain. Why? Just so you can rip off dead people's works? That's pathetic."

    This looks like a fake troll and I would vote it funny, but I guess he's serious?

     

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    Ninja (profile), Mar 14th, 2012 @ 10:51am

    Name of asshole wannabe musicians I'll never ever try to listen to and will tell every1 how imbecile they are.

    Ray Columbus [check]

     

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    Atkray (profile), Mar 14th, 2012 @ 11:12am

    Mike you silly,

    If musicians had to save for retirement they wouldn't be able to party like rock stars.

     

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    Chris Hoeschen (profile), Mar 14th, 2012 @ 12:16pm

    So nobody can ever write a tragic love story anymore? Nobody can write about about regicide to gain power? Nobody can write about corruption, betrayal, time travel, space travel, etc? Wow I guess nobody can write about anything anymore. All are can be traced down to some public domain works on at least a basic level.

    I saw a video quite some time ago about a musician that noticed how many many many songs today all have a certain number of notes in common. He recognized this because when he was in band at school he got sick of playing these same notes over and over again and heard them in a piece of music he was listening to. I think this was in response to a lawsuit between two musicians. In his video he points out the notes in common between the two songs in question. He then points out the same notes in songs going back several years and concluding by showing the same notes in some classical song.

     

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    rjh, Mar 14th, 2012 @ 12:32pm

    NZ contributions to copyright debate

    In other contributions from NZ to the copyright debate, not only do we have the rather sad Ray Columbus, don't forget we locked up Dotcom, and we also gave you the remarkable Brian Edwards who produced this tirade against libraries - http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20090925/0100086317.shtml

     

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    MahaliaShere (profile), Mar 14th, 2012 @ 1:16pm

    Why do these artists not understand that the only reason they were able to create is because of what came before them?

     

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    aethercowboy (profile), Mar 14th, 2012 @ 2:22pm

    Unlimited Copyright Term?

    I agree that we should have an unlimited copyright term.

    ...as long as we go by the mobile phone industry's definition of "unlimited."

     

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      MahaliaShere (profile), Mar 14th, 2012 @ 2:30pm

      Re: Unlimited Copyright Term?

      Or, how about we go back to 14 years, and for each additional term of X years, the more instances of Fair Use must be allowed. That would create incentive for the copyright holder to make as much money (I know that's not the purpose of copyright) as quickly as possible, because the more they hold on to it, the less right they have of controling copies as they continue to renew.

      Sounds nutty doesn't it?

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2012 @ 2:49pm

    Jebus, Ray Columbus is a knob end. Be glad, rest of the world, that you've never really had his "music" inflicted on you.

     

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    Mockingbird (profile), Mar 14th, 2012 @ 5:19pm

    he's not the first

    From The Ballad of Dennis Karjala
    It wasn't many years ago, in nineteen and seventy-eight,
    they added nineteen years onto the term of copyright;
    then said the movie barons and the proud high-lords of song,
    "our copyrights will suit us well if they can last this long."

    But when the nineteen extra years were nearly past and done,
    those same proud barons then returned with cash to Washington.
    "We want another twenty years, we hate the public domain.
    And here's some cash that you can use to fund your next campaign."
    So if the NZ songwriter's wisecrack is seriously meant, it's a case of life imitating art.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2012 @ 6:10pm

    be carefull Masnick, calling someone from New Zealand a KIWI is seen by MANY PEOPLE from that Country as a highly derogatory and degrading term, and an insult.....

    they consider it equivalent to the "N" word you like to use for African Americans....

    just so you know, and to reduce some ignorance of CURTURE you are displaying.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2012 @ 9:42pm

      Re:

      What the fuck is this CURTURE you speak of, darryl?

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2012 @ 3:47am

      Re:

      hey,, watch in my curture that is how it is spelleded....

       

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      Chargone (profile), Mar 15th, 2012 @ 4:46am

      Re:

      where the hell did you get that idea from?

      we call OURSELVES that all the time...

      far more common is objecting about the fact that, thanks to American military crate labeling, the rest of the world can't seem to grasp the fact that a 'kiwi' is a BIRD. not a fruit. (the fruit is called a 'kiwifruit' and was, prior to NZ becoming a major grower, known as a 'chinese gooseberry', God only knows why. the fruit is named for the people are named for the bird.)

       

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    That One Guy (profile), Mar 14th, 2012 @ 8:37pm

    The guy actually has a point

    Think of it, when the zombie uprising finally occurs, do you want seriously angry zombie musicians wandering around, demanding that they still get paid for the songs they made, and therefor becoming even angrier zombies, or do you want more laid back zombie musicians, who can stay at home, get paid, and just take the occasional chunk out of whatever lawyer has to deliver the checks?

     

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    David, Mar 16th, 2012 @ 1:00pm

    Public Domain exists because the Founding Fathers wanted to, for "Limited Time" secure rights to authors so they can inspire creative arts and sciences. If you want to copy Mozart, go right ahead, but it has to be more than a mere Piano Performance. Rearrange it, Stage the Magic Flute somewhere different.

     

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