Music fans were treated to a Valentine’s surprise last week when hip-hop pioneers De La Souloffered up their acclaimed back catalog for free download through their official website. Pretty awesome for fans and newcomers alike. Still, this giveaway comes with a complicated backstory, one marked by deep frustration with the state of sample clearances. In particular, De La Soul are emblematic of challenges facing artists in an environment of corporate mergers and major label ownership. read more
Tuesday’s session was somewhat more focused than previous hearings, but was unfortunately cut short due to a scheduled floor vote. Although it didn’t go into as much depth as we’d have liked, the hearing offered valuable perspectives on an often contentious subject.
Witnesses on the panel included law professors Peter Jazsi and June Besek, author Naomi Novik representing the Organization for Transformative Works, songwriter and musician David Lowery of Cracker/Camper Van Beethoven and Kurt Wimmer of the Newspaper Association of America.
As we mentioned, fair use is a unique legal exception allowing artists and others to make use of copyrighted material without obtaining permission from the author or rightsholder. But fair use doesn’t mean you can just use whatever you want whenever you please—there are four specific factors that courts weigh to make determinations about the “fairness” of a use. (Check ‘em out here.)
Fair use has produced a lot of debate, from 2 Live Crew’s “Oh Pretty Woman” parody to controversies over mass digitization to the recent Beastie Boys vs Goldieblox dispute. As ranking member Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC) noted, the flexibility of fair use is a strength. A weakness is that that it doesn’t always provide perfect clarity. This might be why fair use tends to be poorly understood by the general population.
Here at FMC, we regularly engage in a kind of protracted dialog with government through public comments and other filings that can extend over years (actually, thirteen and counting!). While we don’t claim to have all the answers, we do believe that our history of direct engagement with musicians, composers, independent labels, publishers, PROs, unions and others is useful for policymakers to consider as they grapple with the many questions facing creators in the digital age.
On Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2013, FMCfiled comments with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) regarding their recent “green paper”—itself a product of the Internet Policy Task Force comprised of USPTO, the Department of Commerce and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Way back in 2010, we filed comments in the original proceeding that resulted in this year’s report, Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy [PDF].
Future of Music Coalition filed the following comments with the United States Patent and Trade Office (USPTO) in an inquiry related to a previously published “green paper” from the Internet Policy Taks Force (a joint effort also including the United States Copyright Office and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration).
Having had time to digest a 100+ page report on digital copyright policy, we can report back that this “green paper” covers a range of issues around copyright and technology with an understanding of the complexities for creators. The report is a product of the Department of Commerce’s Internet Policy Task Force (IPTF) with input from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). We wouldn’t say that the green paper is a good beach read — and not just because it’s after Labor Day — but it does lay out very clearly the challenges and opportunities of the digital marketplace.
Of course, we’re mostly concerned about how these issues impact musicians and composers. This is why we’re also delighted to announce that one of the contributors to this report, Shira Perlmutter, Chief Policy Officer and Director of International Affairs at USPTO, is going to give a keynote at the Future of Music Summit (Oct. 28-29, Georgetown University, Washington, DC). Don’t miss the chance to hear from the horse’s mouth about how executive branch agencies are dealing with the issues that impact YOUR livelihood — registration is open now (with a limited number of musician scholarships available)!
[…] The suit doesn’t surprise Kembrew McLeod, associate professor of communication studies at the University of Iowa, and co-author, with economist and researcher Peter DiCola, of the book “Creative License: The Law and Culture of Digital Sampling.” “‘Paul’s Boutique’ and other albums of that era are like ticking legal time bombs,” says McLeod, who also co-produced the acclaimed documentary “Copyright Criminals.” “For instance, in 2005, Run DMC was sued by the Knack for using ‘My Sharona’ for its song ‘It’s Tricky.’ And they were sued 20 years after the fact.” read more
Future of Music Coalition respects intellectual property and copyright. We believe that musicians and songwriters must have the ability to be compensated for their work, regardless of where or how that work is used or accessed.
We also recognize that creators are not a monolithic group, and may have a variety of perspectives on issues at the intersection of copyright and technology. That’s why we think it is so important that the artist perspective is represented in debates about intellectual property in the information age. read more
[…] McLeod and DiCola believe that people, not corporate entities define society and that even wonderfully radical art or technology is still beholden to that society. They supplement this sentiment with a proposal to reform sample clearance laws, under which artists are free to sample within reason, and rights holders can pay a fee to a third, possibly governmental, party to stop the sampling artist. It’s an interesting idea that requires all parties to create a shared perspective on the new digital reality. But given the political dimension of our society’s inability to be proactive about anything, their proposal is largely an academic exercise. read more
In the last thirty years, technology has transformed the conversation between past and present musicians: it is now possible to quote a previous work not only note for note, but byte for byte. The turntable and the sampler are the hip-hop artist’s quintessential instruments. The culture of hip-hop bricolage, coupled with intense commercial pressures in the recording industry and an inevitable proliferation of rip-off artists, has created difficult challenges for copyright law and for the concept of licensing. Several cultures must adapt to each other, and often they are doing so in the courtroom. read more