Recording Industry Hypocrisy On Full Display In Continuing To Push The CLASSICS Act That Expands Copyright

from the we-see-you dept

In the past few months we’ve written a few times about the problems with “The CLASSICS Act”, which is part of an otherwise mostly unobjectionable copyright modernization bill. You can look back at the previous posts, which get deep into the weeds on the problems of the bill, but the short version is that in an attempt to change how pre-1972 sound recordings are treated (specifically, to get streaming companies to pay a brand new “performance right” license on those works), the CLASSICS Act creates this new right, but leaves out all of the supposedly balancing factors of federal copyright law — including the time limit before these works should go into the public domain.

Hilariously, for merely pointing out why it seems silly to give the record labels (and, yes, it’s mostly the record labels) a brand new right, taking it away from the public, and doing so in a manner that does nothing for the public other than remove a right that it already had (oh, and which does nothing to incentivize the creation of new music), Billboard’s famed tech hating columnist Rob Levine has posted a silly screed, claiming that anyone challenging the CLASSICS Act must be an “anti-copyright” activist.

Levine has done this for a decade or so. If you dare to push back on extreme copyright maximalism, and point out that maybe it doesn’t make sense, he will tar you as being against musicians or against copyright entirely. But that’s silly. The problems of the CLASSICS Act are pretty clear. It is creating a brand new right for copyright holder (i.e., record labels) and in doing so, is taking that right away from the public. Even worse, it’s doing so in a manner that doesn’t bring with that new right any of the necessary and Constitutionally required protections for the public’s own rights — including the right for the work to move into the public domain in a reasonable amount of time.

Senator Ron Wyden has introduced an alternative bill in the Senate, called the ACCESS to Recordings Act, that takes a more reasonable approach to the issue of pre-1972 sound recordings. Rather than just handing them one new right, while keeping them under obsolete state copyright laws, which block those works from entering the public domain with any other creative work created in the same time, Wyden’s bill effectively just puts pre-1972 sound recordings on par with other pre-1972 works (and post-1972 works). It’s still creating a brand new right out of thin air for legacy copyright holders — and it’s worth discussing why we want to do that — but if we see it as a trade-off between giving copyright holders a performance right in exchange for getting those works into the public domain when they belong there, perhaps it’s worth while.

Organizations like the Internet Archive have come out strongly in favor of Wyden’s bill, and if the RIAA and the record labels (and folks like Rob Levine) are actually being honest in claiming that the CLASSICS Act is necessary to get streaming royalties paid to performers, then they too should support Wyden’s bill over the CLASSICS Act. It provides them exactly what they claim they want, a brand new streaming performance right for those works, but does not allow those works to be held out of the public domain for many extra decades.

If they continue to insist that the CLASSICS Act must move forward over the ACCESS Act, then it’s a pretty clear statement that they really wish to only give the labels this bit of government welfare, without compensating the public for taking these rights away from them. Let’s take a wild guess how this will turn out…

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Comments on “Recording Industry Hypocrisy On Full Display In Continuing To Push The CLASSICS Act That Expands Copyright”

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Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Just remember, whenever trying to reduce the power and influence of something harmful that’s backed by commercial interests comes up, it’ll be an uphill battle every time. Whether it be copyright abuse, pollution, abortion, for-profit prisons, predatory lending, or whatever else, the same principle always bites those of us trying to improve things in the butt: there is no money to be made in not selling a product or service. Which translates directly into a disadvantage in lobbying and advertising, right from the start.

Anonymous Coward says:

coming out of the woodwork

Among the “anti-copyright activists coming out of the woodwork” that recording industry prostitute Robert Levine lists are Doctorow and Lessig, but not Masnick, who has quite possibly written more anti-copyright articles over the last 20 years than all the others put together.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

There is, but not for lack of trying. I’ve no doubt whatsoever that if they thought they could get away with a retroactive expansion of copyright such that what is currently in the public domain was no longer they would do so in a heartbeat.

As is the public domain still exists, it just hasn’t had anything added to it in many a year.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:

There is, but not for lack of trying. I’ve no doubt whatsoever that if they thought they could get away with a retroactive expansion of copyright such that what is currently in the public domain was no longer they would do so in a heartbeat.

Nah. Disney would never support any law that would require it to pay royalties to the heirs of the Brothers Grimm, Rudyard Kipling, Carlo Collodi, et al.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Found it.

Irregardless, as someone who used to be a very anti-piracy/pro-copyright advocate I can attest that when you club me over the head, treat me poorly, and attempt to restrict my rights as well, in your efforts to combat this perceived wrong, you are eventually going to lose my active support.

When you club me over the head, treat me poorly, and attempt to further violate my rights in your efforts to combat this perceived wrong, because I am now not actively supporting you, eventually I will actively oppose you.

When you club me over the head, treat me poorly, and attempt to even further restrict my rights, in your attempt to combat this perceived wrong, because I am now actively opposing you, then I will eventually actively support those you are attempting to combat.

Simply because THEY are not trying to club me over the head, treat me poorly, or trying to restrict my rights at every given opportunity.

Presenting an argument that something is morally wrong, while engaging in behavior that is far more morally reprehensible to many people is NOT going to get you a lot of support. – Loki

David says:

Re: Re: Next Up

Actually, those work pretty well even with 25+25 copyright rules since nobody is in the position of reading the original Homeric Greek (mostly Aeolic and Ionian dialects) without translation, so there is a periodic “new” scholarly edition/translation that is considered “completely outdated” every few decades and out of print in sake for the next translation.

Try finding sheet music editions of Bach and/or Beethoven that you are actually allowed to copy and you’ll find the same principle at work.

Which actually arguably is even “promoting arts and science” by trying to be “better” in some tangible manner in order to outdate the last revision.

But copyright maximalists are too lazy to even feed that cycle.

ECA (profile) says:


How many ways to close doors??

Always wondered what an artist would do if they could Claim money from drawing a picture, for 50+ years..
RENT a drawing??
Movies Are interesting, as after they have gone threw all the showings, Many can be used as CASH, and sold back and forth, between companies, and Collected, redistribution, and other uses..
Music is about as strange, but there is mostly only a FEW that buy it back and forth..

The REAL problem tends to be the MASS amounts of DATA/MUSIC/AUDIO that they have Kept over the years..
HOW much can you make?
An artist is an ARTIST..a Person TRYING to make money from Music Makes as MUCh music as they can..
BOTH are stimulated to MAKE MORE.. esp. if they want money or to Sate the need to Create.. do they NEED money to create?? only 1 does. The other has no ability to STOP creating.. He could and WILL sit on a corner and Create..

Look at Youtube..MILLIONS are creating new and modernized music..
If they release the old recording, can you Guess how many formats will be created FOR THE PRICE OF NOTHING??? And some odd group wants to make money on YOU FORMAT..

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Anti-Copyright

You do not get out and about on the Internet much. There are many many creators in many fields to whom two things are important, their work is known and built on, and the work is attributed to them. Some manage to become full time creators by means of patronage, but many produce works for other reasons, including altruism, or because they are part of a community who help each other by sharing knowledge.

Here is a three minute video about why they are on YouTube, from an entrepreneurial business owner, and How the Internet enables them to do what they are doing today.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

I enjoyed watching them testify before the committee & complain how they weren’t getting paid for works made over 60 years ago.
I can understand why Congress thinks it is the right thing, they get taken care of for life on our dime but in reality people aren’t paid for work they did decades ago.

If a ‘sandwich artist’ demanded to be paid for that really good sandwich they made a decade ago today, they would mock them. We have one-hit-wonders who long after their 15 minutes are over demand to get top dollar for each replay.

Your creations should last forever, but not the royalties.
Your gatekeepers are robbing you, not the public.

Why demand more rights to make imaginary money when very often your content isn’t available at any price to those willing to pay & then complain about piracy instead of seeing it as a failure to meet demand in the market?

Paul Brinker (profile) says:

Re: Re:

End of the day its who gets elected to congress. There is no money in a pro-shorter term copyright stand, so people running wont be pro-shorter term. In fact simply keeping copyright stupidly long to keep free works out of the public’s hands.

The only way to fix this is to fix the people who run. Running costs $$ so unless you want public funding for people to run your going to end up with the situation you have now.

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