Would It Really Be So Bad If The Beatles Were In The Public Domain?
from the probably-not dept
Clearly, the point she was trying to make was that you never know what amazing works of history the major labels are suddenly going to dredge up and repackage in a profitable way -- and that's the reason why such works should remain under copyright (and under the control of the major labels) for as long as is humanly possible.
But does this make any sense?
I don't think so, and I think that a very strong argument can be made that things would have been just dandy if The Beatles' tunes had been in the public domain at the same time. The specific work that Pariser is referencing is The Beatles Stereo Box Set, which was released with a ton of fanfare in September 2009, at the same time as The Beatles in Mono box set, and The Beatles: Rock Band. And while it sold well, many people complained (reasonably) that they were basically offering the same songs all over again, in the RIAA's never-ending quest to make you keep on buying the stuff that you've already bought. In fact, many of the buyers almost certainly had all the works already. So why did they still buy it? Because the set itself was historic, complete and collectible in all sorts of ways that made it worth buying for fans of The Beatles.
The amount of work that went into making some of the early mono recordings stereo was apparently incredible, and the box set included a ton of valuable extras, including a DVD with narration from all four of The Beatles. There was additional footage from recording sessions, photo sessions and various other features as well. In other words, there were many reasons why people bought this box set, but I'd argue that access to the music wasn't near the top of most people's lists. They already had much of the music.
Furthermore, let's assume that The Beatles' works were in the public domain in 2009. Could EMI have still made a ton of money on such a box set? You bet. Again, by noting that it was the official version, remastered from as much original material as possible, and including all sorts of extras from The Beatles themselves, it means that there would be all sorts of reasons to buy the official version. If anything, having the recording be in the public domain might have resulted in more people working on attempts to turn the mono recordings into stereo recordings, which could have made such a box set available sooner, as EMI could have benefited from the work of others in the public domain as well.
The problem, yet again, is that Pariser and the RIAA keep pretending that the only reason people buy is directly for the recording. That's simply not true. They're also pretending that you can't make money from the public domain, which is also totally untrue. What bothers me is that Pariser and the RIAA are making these obviously untrue statements to policy makers, who might not be sophisticated enough to know that these statements are untrue.