ABA Journal Highlights How The Music Industry Is Thriving And How Copyright Might Not Be That Important

from the wow dept

Michael Scott points us to one of the best summaries I've seen of the state of the music business today -- published in the ABA Journal. It's an incredibly balanced piece, that really does carefully present both sides of the story on a variety of issues, and presents actual evidence, which suggests the RIAA is blowing smoke on a lot of its claims. The piece kicks off by highlighting that the music industry appears to be thriving, and then noting that it's not the same as the recording industry, which has been struggling.

Much of the piece does present the RIAA's viewpoint on things, such as the idea that the legal strategy the labels have taken has been a "success." However, it follows it up by questioning what kind of success it has been when more people are file sharing and more services are available for those who want to file share. From there it segues into a discussion on "three strikes" and ACTA, which includes the jaw-dropping claim from an RIAA general counsel that "three strikes" was "never even put on the table." I've heard from numerous ISP folks who say that's not true at all. However, the article does a good job (gently) ripping apart the RIAA's claims, with evidence to the contrary, and does a beautiful job digging deep into ACTA to show how the text might not explicitly require three strikes, but is worded in such a way as to make it hard to qualify for safe harbors without implementing three strikes.

The latter part of the article then focuses on how the music industry really is booming, and how more people are making music, and there are lots of opportunities for musicians to do well these days, even without relying on copyright law. The arguments made (and the people and studies quoted) won't be new to regular Techdirt readers, but it really is a very strong piece, targeted at lawyers (many of whom may not have realized some of these details). For example:
If the ultimate goal is to promote the creation of new works, then perhaps it isn't really necessary to take stronger legal actions against illegal file-sharing because the evidence does not suggest that it is hindering the creation of new works by musicians
I certainly don't agree with everything in the article, and there are a few statements from the RIAA folks that could have been challenged more directly. But, on the whole, it's definitely one of the better articles I've seen looking at the music industry from the perspective of the legal profession that doesn't automatically drop into the "but we must protect copyrights!" argument from the outset.

Filed Under: business models, copyright, music, music industry

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  1. icon
    Technopolitical (profile), 31 May 2010 @ 3:06am

    Copyright Law in the U.S.


    "The framers of the United States Constitution, suspicious of all monopolies to begin with, knew the history of the copyright as a tool of censorship and press control. They wanted to assure that copyright was not used as a means of oppression and censorship in the United States. (Loren 1999)

    This consuming fear of monopoly and censorship is captured in the words of Thomas Jefferson:

    "I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."
    Letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush ,September 23, 1800.
    (Thomas Jefferson Online Resources, ME 10:173)

    And, with respect to the copyright monopoly and the 1774 reasoning of Chief Justice Mansfield in Millar v. Taylor,

    Thomas Jefferson, in 1788, exclaimed: "I hold it essential in America to forbid that any English decision which has happened since the accession of Lord Mansfield to the bench, should ever be cited in a court; because, though there have come many good ones from him, yet there is so much sly poison instilled into a great part of them, that it is better to proscribe the whole."
    (Commons 1924: 276)

    Four years after the Continental Congress called on the States to introduce copyright the US Constitution was adopted in 1787 and was ratified a year later in 1788. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution is now known as the "Intellectual Property or Copyright Clause" and states:

    The Congress shall have Power . . . To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

    The importance of the clause is evidenced by the fact that the power to promote 'progress' was one of very few powers to regulate commerce initially granted to Congress. Two years after ratification of the US Constitution, Congress passed the first Copyright Act of 1790: An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by securing the Copies of Maps, Charts and Books, to the Authors and Proprietors of such Copies, during the Times therein mentioned.

    The state copyright statutes, most of which were enacted in response to the Continental Congress Resolution, were modeled on the Statute of Anne and thus presaged the inevitable. The federal copyright was to be a direct descendant of its English counterpart. The language in the United States Copyright Clause was almost surely taken from the title of the Statute of Anne of 1710; the American Copyright Act of 1790 is a copy of the English Act; and the United States Supreme Court in its first copyright case, Wheaton v. Peters, used Donaldson v. Beckett as guiding precedent in confirming copyright as the grant of a limited statutory monopoly.
    (Patterson 1993)

    Inclusion of a 'monopoly-granting' power in the Constitution and the Copyright Act of 1790 involved great debate and deliberation particularly between Thomas Jefferson, who initially opposed all monopolies including copyright, and James Madison who proposed its benefits and inclusion.

    In this debate Madison played both sides of the fence, supporting natural or common law rights for Creators on the one hand, and promoting regulation and limitation of the publishing industry through statute on the other. His apparently contradictory opinions are expressed in his correspondence with Jefferson and in the Federalist papers.

    These documents prove that Madison accepted traditional English ideas of copyright. That is, he understood copyright as a monopoly granted for only a limited term. Why did he explain copyright as a natural right in the Federalist when he clearly understood that copyright and patent were inevitable monopolies to promote science and literature? He seemed to believe it would be easier to persuade the people, amid the current mood of antipathy toward monopolies and England, to accept copyright and patent as natural rights than as trade regulation laws which were monopolistic in nature. It is well known that the Americans adopted the common law after screening aristocratic or prerogative elements out. The Founding Fathers understood the nature of copyright as a monopoly that was granted for administrative purposes to promote the sciences and they adopted copyright law after modifying its doctrine to suit American taste. That was America's first copyright statute, the Copyright Act of 1790.
    (Shirata 1999) "



    Gre at Page here . A MUST READ .

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