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. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jul 2009 @ 11:11am

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

    Are you being deliberately obtuse? "there [sic] you go again with the numbers." Really? What number? I intentionally did NOT use numbers. I returned to the basic issue, which is "how" do you define hefty? Such a simple little question.

    As for your comment "that the fees got in the way of an author making his point," that is really the question, is it not? Let us understand whether the author was more upset about the budget set for the project, or whether there was an actual problem here. If the budget would not have permitted the book to have a slip cover, would the author complain about that as well? If the author needed $30 for licensing fees, then I will call him up and pay the fees for him just so he can have a better book. Note that the author never asked for help with the copyright issues, instead just back and said "Oh well. I guess copyright has just halted all the progress I wanted to make with my book." Sounds like whining to me.

    I will ignore your comment regarding the copyright system because it was never "sold" to us per se, it was something put into the constitution of our country. As with other things, it is amenable to the will of the people. However, copyright was never about "protecting" creative works.

    As for copyright being an obstacle for "creators," to some extent I agree that it can be, particularly when a creator has done something unique and they are accused of "stealing." I have a problem with that. As for "creators" who need to use someone else's work to "create," I have yet to figure out what I think about that.

    I disagree vehemently with your statement "...that [I] want to plug in numbers and think [I] will prove my point..." Wrong. I never had a point, I had a question. I have yet to waver from the question. In case your failed to recall the question, let me restate it for you:

    How does the article justify the use of the word hefty with respect to the licensing fees?

    See how easy that question is?

    Now, as far as your last sentence goes, the author had the opportunity to take a license to the work. Ergo, copyright did not prevent the author from "creating" anything. It did put an additional hurdle over making copies of someone else's works to support the creative portion of his work. That is sad. However, the author, or rather, apparently the author's publisher, decided that overcoming the hurdle was "outside the budget." Essentially, they allowed obtaining permission for using the work of someone else to stop them from making the actual creative portion of their work potentially better. I cannot help it if people are lazy.

    Incidentally, people use other people's work to enhance their creative work all the time. Stephen King frequently includes quotes from songs in his books. He often has pages of "used by permission." I guess he could have thrown in the towel and whined about copyright "stopping" him from being creative, or he could just ask to use the lines (which he does). Sure, it takes a phone call or a letter, but most people are thrilled when their work is quoted. It generates interest and drives sales. Most people just want their work acknowledged. People who wish to take that work with asking do the actual creator a disservice. That's a problem.

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