Copyright Is Not A Welfare System For Musicians

from the please-explain dept

As the battle over copyright term extension is still going on in the UK, the Register has an interview with a former general manager of Motown, talking about how those in favor of extending the length of performance rights screwed up because they had successful musicians like Cliff Richard as the figurehead for the movement, leading people to question why a successful musician needs any more money. Instead, he points out that they should have focused on the studio musicians or less well known players where "500 quid a year to them that's a significant amount of money." Of course, that bases the entire argument on the idea that copyright is some sort of welfare program for content creators. It's not. It's very clearly laid out purpose is simply to put in place the incentives for creation of new content. The content that was created 50 years ago does not need any more incentive to be created. Yes, additional money to these musicians probably would be nice for them, but copyright isn't designed as a system to support musicians. They did this work 50 years ago. They got paid then, and they've been paid for it for 50 years, as the law stated. It was enough incentive for them back then -- and it's one of the few jobs in the world where you get paid for work you did 50 years ago. If we want to create a welfare system for musicians, that's a different discussion -- but don't try to hide a welfare system in copyright.

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  1. icon
    Mike (profile), 26 Jan 2007 @ 3:11pm

    Re: Replying

    And I certainly didn't mean there should be government protection for them or any other industry. Or rather I'd prefer if government "protected" artists and industry by making sure no laws were made that hinder the free market, such as a copyright law. So I guess that would be government working in reverse to what it normally does.

    I'm afraid I don't understand what you're saying here. You seem to be saying you don't want government protections, but you do if they're copyright?

    I would like copyright law to basically state that an artist has the ability to sell their materials at whatever price they wish, under whatever terms they wish, no one else could use their creation without their consent, as long as they could prove without a doubt that they're the original creator of the material.

    That's not a free market you're describing. That's fine, but you say you want a free market, yet you then say you want a situation where the market does not set the price, where there's no right of first sale and that the original creator of a good has power over the good after it's been sold.

    I'm just trying to understand how you align those positions, because they don't agree.


    It's the same thing as government "protecting" you when you make a...chair...for example. You paid for the materials to make the chair, or got them somehow yourself by your labor. No one has the right to take the chair from you, it's your property to do with what you please. Sell it, destroy it, give it away.


    Ok. But heres where things get tricky. Once you've sold your intellectual property the new owner should then also have the right to "sell it, destroy it, give it away." Right?

    I also am still a bit confused with your earlier comment that this sort of protection would destroy other works, or the ability of other artists to create new works. It might have been due to our misunderstanding with one another, or maybe you were thinking that I support something such as the copyright of certain notes, and if anyone used those notes, even in a different arrangement, they could sue. I'm NOT for that. But that gets into some serious semantics, which for now I'll leave out due to it's complexity.

    Ok. I think I understand your confusion, but let's look at it this way. Let's say I'm a musician, and I put together a set of notes in a pattern that sounds pleasing. Let's say I created a chord or a scale. According to you, I should now own that forever, and no one else should ever be able to copy it without paying me for it.

    So anyone else who uses those notes, chords or scales should have to pay -- making it increasingly prohibitively expensive to create any new song without paying up.

    You will say I've taken things to an extreme case and that's not what you're saying at all, yes? So, to you, the core "unit" that deserves protection is a full and complete song. But what if my song takes the rhythm of someone else's song and builds on it. What if I take the bassline from one song and the drums from another? Have I violated copyright?

    It begins to get quite messy.

    Now, what if I happen to write the exact same melody that someone else came up with? Should I have to pay them for it?

    And if you're using the song as the unit of measurement, what if it's a perfect copy, but for one note? Where's the line?

    The point is that you can't come up with a "fair" unit of measurement here, and any attempt only limits the creativeness of others.

    Creativity -- all creativity -- is built on what others have done before. Our founding fathers recognized this, and they wanted to encourage everyone to use the creative works of others to create new and innovative creative works, and THAT is why they limited the term of copyright. To encourage others to be able to build on the works of those who came before them in order to build more creative new ideas.

    Insisting that copyright lasts for ever suggests that no one could ever build on the works of anyone else -- and since all creative works do, you stop almost all creative endeavors.

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