I thought this would be pertinent since peer-to-peer sharing is being commented on here. I read a Rolling Stone interview with Bob Dylan in 2006 where he briefly discussed the poor quality of present-day recordings. He didn't have a problem of everyone "gettin' music for free." His reasoning was that "It ain't worth nothing anyway." Through Dylan’s own words, it seemed that he didn't have a problem with music sharing. Why should it bother him? He is worth millions and probably owns more than one home. I didn't think about that specific article since I initially read it until recently.
I began to process many thoughts after watching the Nightly News coverage on November 8th of the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York. That day specifically stood out because it was the moment that Crosby and Nash visited the protestors to show their support. They were singing their old songs from the 60’s, amid a sea of people. Recently, many artists came together to compile "Occupy This Album" in support of the OWS movement. I went to the Internet to look for more information about the project and who was involved. I visited various websites and scrolled down the pages reading the info and watching the videos. That is when three small words opened the Pandora's box in my mind. "All Rights Reserved." At the very bottom of virtually every webpage was the copyright stipulation that stuck out like a sore thumb. On that cue, I started visiting some of the websites of artists that participated on the "Occupy This Album" project including Crosby and Nash and Jackson Browne. Although, Bob Dylan did not participate, I visited his website as well to confirm what I suspected. I noticed that all their internet sites had copyright restrictions reserving their rights. That's when I made the connection that some of the corporations lobbying Washington’s politicians to manipulate laws in their favour are the same companies giving support to these artists through recording contracts. It's great for these musicians that their rights are reserved. However, how can they be credible representatives and justify speaking for the rights of others when they are actually perpetuating the social problem of greed they are voicing to condemn? They are saying one thing but doing another by accepting royalty checks from their record companies. This is a valid question. Along with the investment banks, speculators, and the oil business, the entertainment and media conglomerates, recognizable by name, have taken part in rigging the political and legal systems by lobbying politicians for favourable legislation, enhanced profits and the redistribution of wealth. For example, the Sonny Bono/Mickey Mouse Copyright Term Extension Act extended copyright terms by 20 years allowing for greater maximization of profit. This is similar to the law that protects the anonymity of speculators in the oil commodities market. The rich get richer through the manipulation of legislation.
Crosby and Nash led me back on that day in November to think of the other icon of the 1960’s, Bob Dylan. I started thinking again about that Rolling Stone interview from 2006. What if artists began revoking the rights of corporations to use their music and creative works to make money and freely forfeited their own proprietary ownership for the sake of the public. If there are really artists out there that truly believe that music "ain't worth nothing" and that the greater importance should be placed on transparency, human compassion and sharing then something spectacular could truly be accomplished. It is a fact that artists, writers, musicians, and inventors have the ultimate right to forfeit their intellectual property to the public domain. In other words, creative individuals do not need to either copyright or patent their works. They have the option to give up their accomplishments to the public at any time they feel appropriate. Some original works residing in the public domain are all of Shakespeare's plays, every composed symphony by Mozart and Beethoven, and Einstein's Theory of Relativity. This is good company indeed. Shakespeare made a living and became famous during his lifetime long before copyright law, instituted with the Statute of Monopolies in 1623, and the ability to collect royalties. Cee Lo's 20 million salary is more proof this. One critical point that needs to be stressed is that artists can give up their intellectual property rights while they are still alive. They can also forfeit the copyright to either a single artistic work or to their entire library. This is a simple fact hidden by spin and legal jargon. The obvious reason not to place works of creativity into the public domain is for the sake of generating money.
Until inventors, artists and musicians voluntarily forfeit their proprietary rights to either some or all of their creative works and allow it to become part of the people's domain we will continue to remain in an economic status quo. Popular artists wouldn’t be affected by this forfeiture, as they would still make an abundant amount of money through touring. Corporations, politicians, and lobbyists would seriously be affected if they began to lose their moneymaking assets to the public. Artists like Crosby and Nash, Jackson Browne, U2, and Bruce Springsteen who proudly claim to have a social conscience and who all have made millions of dollars in royalties throughout the years, can afford to release their music freely to the public while forfeiting all restrictions. They only reason they would decide not to do this is for the selfish need to retain control and to direct money to their bank accounts. Greed will continue in our society until notable musicians, artists, inventors and authors begin to generate real change by freely forfeiting their intellectual property rights and directly releasing their works to the public domain. Great artistic, musical, and literary works should be for sharing and for generating human creativity in others. When did everything become a scheme for making money? Presently, the blatantly illegal act of downloading music and movies is the general public's only real defense against corporations maximizing their profits. Peer-to-peer networking is an absolute necessity for society to spread artistic works regardless if the content being shared is deemed illegal. All rights to the following letter are forfeited to the public domain by the author.
Techdirt has not posted any stories submitted by alexbenjamin.