I know this is way old, but I’m running out of things I feel like writing about and I need to start clearing off some of these drafts.
In early October, Techdirt reported on musicians lining up to take back their copyright from the record companies, in the wake of Jack Kirby’s heirs invoking the same termination provisions in the Copyright Act against the comic book companies, and a similar attempt by the heirs of Jerry Siegel, Superman’s creator which ended in a very bizarre fashion. If you think it’s absurd the idea Superman can fly is restricted by part of the copyright, you’re not the only one.
Anyway, in 2013 musical works become eligible for the same type of copyright termination. Granted, this is still a good three years away. The RIAA of course has not taken this lying down, trying to get musical works classified as “works for hire” which is, to put it bluntly, absurd. If you go back to, say, 1979, there was no Internet, no Web, no personal computers as we know them today (the “personal computers” of 1979 were much closer to “fancy calculators” and in fact, their primary uses were bare-bones word processing, simple spreadsheets/budget applications, and rather primitive games), no Magnatune, no Myspace, no Facebook, no Ogg Vorbis or MP3. All copying was analog. Usually, local bands got their exposure from local shows, and were at the mercy of the A&R (artist & repertoire) people for exposure beyond that. In essence, there was no way around the record companies.
As the decades went on all that changed, 1989 saw the CD and the beginnings of digital recording on a home computer. By 1999 the Internet was in full bloom and record company CEOs were freaking out about the Diamond Rio, the first digital music player, to the point of launching a failed lawsuit to try and squash it. Already there was concern about CD “ripping” as the original CD format had only nominal copy restriction capability, which the CD drives on computers (“multifunction devices”) were not even bound to honor.
And here we are in 2010. Digital distribution is no longer the exception; it’s still relatively commonplace for local artists to sell CDs at shows, but some people are starting to see physical media as antiquated. But the artists have options: Magnatune, CD Baby, etc. It’s no longer a game controlled strictly by the record companies and they are feeling the pinch. They blame unauthorized copying (which they refer to using the loaded word “piracy”) when in reality they expect $20 for a CD that’s often an inferior product to a local artist’s $10 to $15 CD. Gee, I wonder why some people prefer to just go download it off of a peer-to-peer network instead of shell out $20, when the warm fuzzy feeling of being “legal” or “honest” is that expensive.
For every Napster or Bearshare, there’s a Pirate Bay or similar site. I do believe one has a responsibility to financially support those who make it possible for one to enjoy music. However, the viability of doing so by buying “legitimate” copies of CDs from RIAA-member labels is highly dubious at best. Beyond a certain level, even concerts become an activity which financially exploits artists (which I have already gone into in detail here several times).
It’s high time for those who actually make the music to get their fair share. I feel once the artists own the copyrights to their music, we’ll start seeing CD (or equivalent download) prices drop back to a much more reasonable level.