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 @ 8:59pm

    Re: 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?

    you said, Can we establish a dollar figure for "out of reach" so that we know what "hefty" means?. that sounds like you want to establish a dollar figure for "hefty". i am not sure how to express a dollar figure without using numbers. if it is possible to do so then please forgive me, i went to public school. if you were being rhetorical, then perhaps you should have stated so.

    I returned to the basic issue, which is "how" do you define hefty?

    i define "hefty" as a "considerable amount", just like webster's. if you have to take into consideration the amount necessary to acquire a license, then that amount is considerable. i would call deciding whether or not you can afford something to be consideration. maybe you don't and that is where we will have to agree to disagree. but to my understanding of the word consideration (something that is or is to be kept in mind in making a decision, according to webster), an amount that is determined to be too large for a budget is considerable (rather large or great in size, distance, extent, etc. again, according to webster's) and therefore conforms to the definition of "hefty".

    that is how i define "hefty". i can try to put it in simpler terms if you would like.

    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.

    see, $30 looks like a number, a "dollar figure" if you will. again, maybe you mean something other than "thirty dollars", but it sure looks like the number thirty representing a number of dollars. again, this all looks to me to be you asking for numbers as an answer when i have stated that you can't use numbers to answer the question. again, i went to a public school, so maybe there are special meanings for this stuff that i am just not aware of.

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

    the article stated that "the need for licenses and the budget foreclosed our doing so." i interpret that as meaning that the fees didn't fit the budget because they were too large, or "hefty".

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