Copyright Insanity: The Need To Get Licenses Just To Demonstrate A Legal Point

from the that-seems-problematic dept

Over at Against Monopoly, Alistair Kelman, points out yet another quirky problem with copyright law. He's discussing a book by Ron Rosen, who was the attorney for famed composer John Williams in fighting a copyright infringement claim saying that Williams copied a phrase in the score for the movie E.T.. The book is called Music and Copyright, and (according to Kelman) is quite a worthwhile read in thinking about some of the modern legal issues that will be faced thanks to mashups and other musical compositions that run up against copyright questions.

Kelman's one issue with the book, is that it would really be aided quite a bit by being able to hear the actual music in question, rather than just seeing the musical notation. So, the suggestion was, why did Rosen put up an online video lecture, playing the music samples so that people could better understand the issues at play. The answer, it turns out, is copyright law. Rosen wrote Kelman, noting:
"...about the need for aural examples, that is something we wanted to do for this edition, but as a new publication, the need for licenses and the budget foreclosed our doing so."
So even though this is a somewhat scholarly effort to look at these issues, apparently Rosen can't even demonstrate his points with music, because copyright forbids it, and requires hefty licensing fees. If ever there were a case where "fair use" should apply, this would seem to be it -- but I'm sure some would argue against that point since this book is a "for-profit" endeavor. Of course, whether something is commercial or not is only one of the four fair use factors, and it seems that if it's just a snippet of the music, a strong fair use case could be made (especially since it's hard to see how this could possibly harm the market for the music itself). However, as copyright system defenders love to point out on a regular basis, they see fair use as a "defense, rather than a right" and thus, the only way to prove that this is fair use would be to go to court -- something that is expensive and time consuming. What an unfortunate state of affairs.

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  1. icon
    chris (profile), 3 Jul 2009 @ 9:35am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: RTFA

    How can we use a relative word, "hefty," when the relativity was arbitrarily established as "considered out of reach"? What does "clearly considered out of reach" mean? Can we establish a dollar figure for "out of reach" so that we know what "hefty" means? And, can we do so in a way that does not use assumptions?

    there you go again with the numbers. the problem is that the fees got in the way of an author making his point. that's not a problem that you can solve with a spreadsheet.

    the copyright system has been sold to us as a method for protecting creative works, but for a lot of creators, it is an obstacle. that is the point. that is the problem.

    i know that you want to plug in numbers and you think that will prove your point, but the point isn't a numeric value. the point is that the system that protects creative works prevents the creation of creative works via legal fees and licensing fees. that's a problem.

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