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?

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

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62 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

“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.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

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!

DCX2 says:

Re: 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?

Baldaur Regis (profile) says:

…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?

Chris Hoeschen (profile) says:

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.

MahaliaShere says:

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?

Mockingbird (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: 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.)

That One Guy (profile) says:

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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