A Historical Look At Copyright And Music

from the useful-reading dept

Jon sends in an interesting link from the New Statesman from last month, discussing some of the history of music and copyright, specifically as it concerned 19th century music. The article is something of a response to the ridiculous, unnecessary and dangerous plan in Europe to extend copyright on performance rights, supposedly to protect "session musicians," but which really just enriches the record labels, and would do very little for the session musicians (who made their deal with the public when they performed in the first place).

There are some notable points in the article, including the fact that since France was one of the first countries to have very strong intellectual property laws for music, many musicians tried to establish themselves in France, but the music produced under that system, in retrospect, isn't considered even remotely in the same class as some of the music produced elsewhere -- even though it was the French composers who got wealthy. In other words, the system of granting monopolies did not do much to encourage better music -- but did plenty to encourage a few mediocre composers to monopolize the system to get wealthy. That's not to say that the alternative business models were good for the musicians in question (the article notes the troubles many faced), but the purpose of copyright is not to make certain musicians rich, but to get them to create better content. And, these days, there are many mechanisms in place by which musicians can make money without relying on intellectual property protections.

Filed Under: copyright, history, music


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  1. identicon
    Anon2, 13 Jan 2009 @ 12:07pm

    session musicans

    I'm not sure why anyone across the pond would be trying to argue that an extension would benefit session musicans. They have never, except in very rare instances involving the most in-demand of them, had any right or any expectation of participation in future revenues. They're paid a flat per-day (or half-day) fee. Most often it's based on union rates or better (the rate schedules are minimums; members are entitled to negotiate for higher rates if their services are more highly valued).

    It's basic work-for-hire stuff, and so far as I know it's been that way for as long as we've had recorded music. In some cases, the label owns the resulting recording; in other cases (more and more frequently) the artist or band for whom the session musician is playing owns it.

    Nothing about those arrangements will change, whether copyright terms are extended somewhere, or whether the entire system is scrapped in favor of one of the new business models this blog frequently touts. Well, the union rate schedules might go by the wayside, because there won't be large entities to collectively bargain with, but that will almost certainly result in nothing more than journeyman session musicans being paid less per-day, because more and more often they are doing just that when they go into a recording session at a studio, or home, or wherever the recording gear is set up, that is not bound by the collective bargaining agreement.

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