Sunday, December 10, 2006

Revolutionizing the Music Publishing Industry

Last Wednesday Dec 6, the following letter from the President of the Music Publisher's Association was posted on a music forum to which I belong. I answered with a legal comment, and then also a radical new idea for how the music publishing business could change to keep up with the new world and still be profitable. Here is the letter and my response:

The Music Publishers' Association of the United States, Inc. (MPA) is the oldest music trade organization in the United States. The MPA is a non-profit association. Many MPA members are music publishers who specialize in producing printed sheet music products for educational, concert and recreational purposes. Accordingly, the MPA is particularly concerned with legal and business issues affecting the printed sheet music industry.

The members of our Board have received numerous e-mails in response to media reports that the MPA is embarking on a campaign to shut down web sites that make sheet music and/or guitar tablature of songs available to the public. We greatly appreciate hearing from those members of the music community who have taken the time to write to us or to our Board members. Although we regret that we may not be able to reply to each inquiry individually, all inquiries are read. Most of these e-mails express similar concerns and those issues have been discussed by the members of the MPA Board. We ask that you take the time to read our explanation of our position that follows, and thank you for your interest and consideration.

In December, the MPA Board decided to take action against web sites that post unauthorized sheet music and tablature versions of our members' copyrighted works. We are doing this to protect the interests of the creators and publishers of music so that, the profession of songwriting remains viable and that new and exciting music will be continued to be created and enjoyed for generations to come.

As with any event that has been reported in the press and discussed among the public, a certain amount of inaccurate information has been circulated. To be clear, neither the MPA nor its member publishers will take any action to shut down any legitimate web-based business that is authorized to distribute our members' music. Rather, MPA is concerned with those web sites that offer music without the permission of the creators and owners of that music.

Our members are in the business of creating printed sheet music and tablature products and making them available for sale in music stores and on line. Our members pay substantial sums to the creators and owners of the music we represent for the right and privilege to bring this music to the public in authorized sheet music products. Our members also put tremendous effort and incur significant expense in arranging, engraving, editing, marketing and distributing those products. Our members work closely with the creators and their musical representatives, to ensure that the finished products accurately represent the music as the creators wrote it.

Our members take great pride in the products they create and sell, and in their relationships with the creators and owners of the music they publish. Moreover, the creation and distribution of legitimate sheet music and tablature products is how our members and their employees feed their families, and it is also how music retailers and, of course, the creators of the music earn a living.

Many of those who have written to us have expressed frustration at the possibility of losing access to "free" guitar tab files that have been posted on various web sites. While it is true that tablature for some of the songs on these sites have not yet been produced legally by a music publisher, it is the presence of the unauthorized free product that is largely to blame for that situation. Accurate and complete notating of songs, whether in traditional sheet music format or in tablature, is a time-consuming and expensive activity. It is very difficult for a music publisher to make the investment needed to produce and sell an accurate, high-quality tablature version of a song when an unauthorized competing tablature version can be downloaded for free on numerous illegal web sites, even if the illegal tablature often is not accurate.

Moreover, it is simply wrong and unjust that many illegal web sites are able to make money, whether from selling advertising, other products or by other means, by giving away music that does not belong to them. Remember, unlike legitimate music publishers, these unauthorized web sites do not pay the creators of the music. It is like a store giving away stolen merchandise to attract customers to buy other things in that store.

Many of those who wrote to us seem to be under the impression that the guitar tabs (or lead sheets or other similar works) posted by individual players are the personal interpretations of the songs by the person who made them and therefore are not subject to copyright. Nothing can be further from the truth. The U.S. Copyright Law specifically provides that the right to make and distribute an arrangement, adaptation, abridgement, or transcription of a copyrighted work such as a song belongs to the copyright owner of that work. Virtually all of the songs on the tab and other music web sites are protected by copyright. Thus, any player, whether an amateur or a top professional, needs the permission of the copyright owner of a song to make an arrangement or a tab version of that song and to post it on the Internet. Otherwise, the arranger and the web site are infringing that copyright.

We have also heard that it would be too expensive to purchase legitimate tablature or sheet music for all of the songs that a player may want to learn. We are sure that these same individuals would not feel entitled to steal a sheet music book or a guitar from a music store simply because they want it but cannot afford it. Yet, anyone who patronizes these illegal web sites is stealing just as if he or she walked out of the music store with sheet music or a guitar. And by doing so, those people are taking money from the creators of the music they say they love.

The MPA is taking action to protect the rights of the creators and owners of music against people who would take the value of their music for their own commercial purposes without compensation. Our members are ready and willing to work with any web site owner who wants to build a legitimate on-line business to make music available to amateurs and professionals while providing compensation to the people who create and own that music. We look forward to developing new ways of distributing our products through the Internet for the benefit of everyone in the music community.

We hope that your reading of this message has left you with a better understanding of our position and that we have been able to clarify some of the myths and misinformation regarding the distribution of copyrighted music on the Internet and our members' position. We are always interested in hearing the views of the music community, and would welcome your comments at

(Mr.) Lauren Keiser
Music Publishers Association

My response on that same day of Wed Dec, 2006 follows. I also sent this note directly to the President of the MPA as a suggestion for a way to fix the current business problems of the music publishing industry. Here is what I said:
I have at least two things to say about this.

I have a legal comment, and I have a radical new idea to help the MPA.

1) First, I believe that the MPA's claim would probably not survive a legal argument that quotes the "Fair Use" clause of the US Copywright laws which specifies that any works can be used free of charge if they are used for "educational purposes".
I think it would be possible for a copyright attorney to make the fundamental argument that sheet music, especially guitar tabulature is used to LEARN the music. It is therefore educational and therefore exempt from copyright fees. After all, no one goes into a bar to see a bar band show them TAB music on the overhead projector. They go to hear the music. Also, the written TAB music is not used on stage as part of the performance. And the music is being played by musicians who may or may not have learned it using TAB. They may have learned it by ear (as I used to learn it when I played in bar-band cover bands), or they may have picked it up using tab sheets, chord charts, or whatever. The point is, that the tab sheets are not integral to the actual performance of the music where there might be monetary compensation. Rather, they were only used in the educational context of learning the songs ahead of time, for which there was no monetary remuneration.
There MIGHT be a weak argument that states if the TAB is actually used DURING a performance, then that is PART of the performance and therefore not merely educational and therefore entitled to a fair portion of the proceeds. But since that rarely if ever happens, it is immaterial, and that argument is rendered academic and moot. In the case of orchestras, they do in fact use the written music in standard notation during the performances, but I am fairly certain that they are paying for their sheet music.

So - bottom line - tabs are educational and exempt from copyright claims and fees. I think a strong copyright attorney could make that argument.

2) As a songwriter and musician myself, I fully understand, appreciate, commisserate, and empathize with the MPA. The music industry itself is in turmoil in this modern world where recorded music and sheet music is free to anyone with a computer and an internet connection. It's one of the main reasons why being a musician is no longer economically viable as a full-time vocation for most people. (in other words - you can't expect to make a living as a music performer anymore). Therefore, most musicians actually make their living in other ways, and perform music either as a hobby, or as a part-time occupation.

But, it's time that the MPA and others in the music industry just accept that this is where we are now in the world. We can't put the genie back in the bottle.
Understandably, they would like to hold on to the old model where they could make money from selling printed music, or even selling written music online, but those days are, regrettably, now gone. If they think they can legislate us back to a behavior and a business model that existed 20 and 30 years ago, just because it treats songwriters and the music publishers more fairly, then they are mistaken.

The internet has been a huge agent of change in society. It is the great equalizer in some industries. For most things, money now flows to the lowest cost provider of goods and services because the buying public has the options of seeing all the competitors and their prices, then comparing features and service levels and making informed decisions. So those with inferior offerings are eliminated and do not survive. Wal-Mart has a physical model of the lowest cost provider and survives by offering their goods immediately. Their value proposition is that people can get what they need immediately, without waiting for shipping, and at the low cost. That is how they survive against the internet providers.

In the world of selling information - the internet is HUGELY valuable to the consumer because almost everything is available online, and mostly for free if you look around. Why would ANYONE now buy a set of Encyclopedia Brittanica books, when they can look up anything they want on the internet? (I actually own a set of Britannica, btw. Bought before the Internet really came into it's own.)
As a published author, I know that my own book would not sell very many copies if copies of it were available for free on the internet. If someone took the time to scan all the pages or re-type it into a document, and made that available to the world for free, I probably would not be selling the thousands of books per month I am no doubt selling right now.

Sellers of sheet music, tabs, maps, and fictional works, reference works, and other forms of information all have to learn to survive in a different world now. A world where everything they can offer is simply available for free 24 hrs per day, online, to everyone, everywhere on the planet. It's that simple.
The internet is there. It's not going away. Everyone can contribute to it and connect to it, and use it, and most do. So millions of people can usually get whatever information they want for free. Game over.

- or is it? -

One of my main jobs is as a high-level business analyst. I analyze large enterprise-level businesses, find the flaws in the offerings, and their processes, and their systems, and then design newer, better solutions. At the moment, I am working in the travel industry to design a better, more streamlined process for finding and booking hotel rooms. This includes merging and consolidating systems and processes from different independent business units. (don't ask details - it's secret)

So let me do a little of that kind of analysis here, right now, for the MPA.

The key is to come up with a NEW business model. A NEW paradigm for your information-based product. You have to change your value proposition to the potential customers. Just as the internet and online access to millions of tabs made the old printed sheet music obsolete, we need something new that makes the internet-based online tabs obsolete. We need the NEXT logical step. We need a vision for the future of this business.

And I have one. Here it is:

If you want to get them to pay you money, you have to provide something that has more value than what they can already get for free. Bottled water sells for more than soda drinks, even though tap water is free, because it is pre-filtered, clean water, and is marketed as a tastier alternative - and safer. It's also packaged in a handy, convenient way.

Here is a simple idea:
How about if we bundle all the TAB music electronically and load it into a small notebook-sized device that a musician can take with him everywhere. Memory is relatively cheap. It could store literally thousands and thousands of songs easily. The ultimate fake-book. This is an e-book that contains TAB music that can zoom in or zoom out to show as much of the music or as little as needed, and can auto-scroll as the musician plays. It's portable. He takes it to practice. It includes the lyrics, and could actually be set on the stage or on a monitor, and light up and scroll so he can see the lyrics as he plays or even performs. In fact, if the whole band can sight-read from the tab, or standard notation sheets, then, the band could take requests from the audience and have the music right there ready to go.

An enterprising guitar amplifier manufacturer like Line6 could even build it into their amp as a pop-up unit, so it's always handy, always there. A HUGE value-add to an amp. If it's a digital modelling amp, you might even consider having the modeling patches for original guitar tone used pop into memory for the amp to match the tab selected. So you bring up All Along The Watchtower, and also, your amp suddenly has Jimi Hendrix's settings and sound for that song available as a preset.

How about THAT? THAT provides value that he can't get by downloading tab sheets off the internet.

The MPA could set up and provide a central database and update download service, which is supplied by all the member music publishers. Since new music is always being created, the musician now also has an ongoing download service that allows him to hook up to the MPA-sanctioned central database and get his updates for a set monthly fee. That means he is a regular customer. In the online industry, a named, regular customer that can be recognized when he logs on to your service - is like GOLD. That ALSO means that the people who provide the music TAB updates, now have him as a potential audience for their advertising. A tightly targeted market.

Now, I believe THAT is a value proposition for the music publishing industry for the 21st century.

By contrast, trying to force people to do it the way it was done 40 years ago back in the 1960's, just because musicians and publishers made more money then, isn't going to work. This is a way to USE the new technology and the new methodology to make money in a new paradigm.

Give more value - get more money. That's the fair and logical way to attack the problem.


At 1/06/2007 2:53 AM, Anonymous igor said...

tricky subject. I am not sure where I stand in this brawl over copyright issues. Generally I lean towards abolishing copyright altogether, except for a short (like 5 yrs?) period to recover costs, if any. After that - public domain, no exceptions, ifs, or buts.

or, probably, the copyright holder should be entitled to a fixed % of gross revenue when someone makes $$$ on her work, but other than that - public domain...

I repeat - I am not sure. I'd love to test my arguments by opponent's critique, but, unfortunately it seems impossible to have a reasonable discussion with someone who (more or less) supports mpaa's and riaa's stance. The lure of easy big money is impossible to beat. You won't believe how far into crazy zone people would go just to dodge agreeing with my arguments! I remember one guy explained that even if - for example - (song) creation process takes just a month - still it "irreparably consumes part of the artist's soul" - that's why multi-$-mil compensation is "more than fair". All with a straight face!

PS: in mid 30s two soviet writers travelled across US in a car and then wrote a book about it. they often picked up hitchhikers (it seemed to be safe then) and listened to their life stories. One of the hitchhikers was a young man, a communist. He wanted to take all rich people's money and divide it among everyone. But not all money. "Take all their money, just let them keep $1 million, no more, that is !" - he was telling. ... After dropping that guy, the writers' american companion said: "Guess why he allows rich people to keep $1 mil per head? Because he still hopes to become rich capitalist himself!"

PPS: what was the above about? it was about people who support riaa/mpaa even if they don't make $$$ on movies or books or music...

At 1/06/2007 10:04 AM, Blogger Val Serrie said...

The argument over copyright is similar to the argument over prescription drugs in some ways.
There is an initial period during which the creator of the drug has the exclusive right to sell it in order to receive compensation for the costs in developing it, and also in order to realize enough profits to make it worthwhile to continue developing new drugs. After that period, the drug becomes available to other pharma companies to manufacture as a generic drug, and suddenly the price drops dramatically.
That system is fair as long as the period that the first company has it is only long enough to allow fair compensation and profit to still provide incentive for development. Otherwise no new drugs would be developed, and we would all have to make do with the old drugs, which because of the evolution of viruses, become less and less effective over time.
So that system works.

Let's look at the music industry and where it came from, how it changed, and where it is now, and where it seems to be going.

In the early to mid 1900's, most people learned to play a musical instrument. Even in less affluent areas, people still took music seriously. It was one of the few luxuries in life that almost anyone could afford in some fashion.
But the middle class was probably the biggest consumer of music - as they are the biggest consumer of most things.

And the way they consumed music in those days was to buy sheet music, and then play the music on the piano at home. Some were better than others, but most people took some form of music lessons on some form of musical instrument - and most kids took piano lessons at least for a while. It was almost considered a part of growing up - like going to school, or playing in sports. It was considered a necessary part of a well-rounded life.

So there was that market. Sheet music was sold to consumers. And it was a big industry. The way it was sold was that individual musicians and stars would sing the songs that were written by songwriters and they were recorded. These recordings were then played on the radio, and then later on television, when that came out. People would hear the songs, decide which ones they liked, and then buy the sheet music and play them at home.

Then the recordings became the products that people started to buy for their own sake. They liked listening to the recordings themselves.
That was a fundamental shift point in the industry. Now the artist were doing more than just performing someone else's song to sell the sheet music - now they were selling their own performance. Then the performers began writing their own music. That was the major shift, and it happened around the 1960's for the most part.

So now, people started consuming the recordings much more than the sheet music. But the sheet music continued along, in a slightly lesser role, and still continues to this day.
Although rarely does anyone ever buy recordings of someone singing other songwriter's songs anymore. Most artists write their own music now. Country music is perhaps an exception. There are still a number of artists who buy music from songwriters and perform them both on stage and in recordings. But certainly most rock and pop bands write and perform their own music.

So the world of sheet music is much smaller today than it was. Other than classical and orchestral music for large orchestras and high school bands, it is mostly sold to young people learning to play an instrument. You don't often see a professional rock band playing with sheet music on music stands like an orchestra.

But the question here is who owns the music, and who SHOULD own it. This revolves around the concept of 'intellectual property' and that is viewed differently by different people. Most people in America tend to view intellectual property as something that gives fair consideration to the originator of intellectual works. This includes music, books, designs, art, ideas, formulas, etc.

It's easy to see where, if a drug company invests millions of dollars into research to create a useful new drug, they should have exclusive ownership of that formula for a while - otherwise, why bother? We would have NO investment without a capital return.
But with music, the case is less compelling. It doesn't take millions of dollars to develop a song. But does that mean it is worthless?
Why did we decide that mathematical formulas such as the Pythagorean Theorum, or E=MC2, or the formulas for calulating the area of a circle, or the volume of a sphere, etc. should be available to everyone for free, but the formula for viagra should be only the property of one company, and they are allowed to charge $10 per pill?
Time, essentially. Those mathematical formulas have been around for centuries. There was no concept of intellectual property then, so they are all free. So is the tune for "Happy Birthday". You can sing it all you like and pay no one any royalties.
But not so with current works of art or literature. The authors want to make a living, so they expect a return for their efforts.

The recordings, as a product, were once sold in stores as the main method of selling music. The internet changed that. By the mid 1990's kids were signing on to Napster to download all the music they wanted for free. Then other similar sites cropped up offering the same thing. Young people came to view music as a free item. Today, it's not unusual for one kid to buy a CD they like, then load it onto their iPOD, then loan it to 20 friends so they can do the same thing. That one CD purchase represents what might have been 20 purchases in the old days.

Is this fair? No. Probably not. But it is a reality of the modern world. It comes down to whether you think music has value. Would you say you life needs NO music whatsoever in it? Does it really make no difference to you? If you DO want music in your life, then, logically speaking, it has value. And, further, if it has value, why should anyone expect to get it for free?

But often, they do. And that is unfair to those who dedicate their lives to writing and producing music. To compensate, many artists have to resort to constant performances. They keep performing on stage long after their healthy years. Many into their 60's and 70's now. Even when they are old and sick. Some, like BB King and Johnny Winter, can't even stand up anymore. They have to sit to play, and they don't have the strength or energy to play anymore. But when they stop playing they stop eating, and they have to keep eating, so they continue on.

There is very little money in writing or recording music. Would you like to know how much? Well, a record company I know pays their artists 5 cents per song per copy sold of anything they write. That was the deal they offerred me as well. And these days, an album is considered a huge success if it sells 70,000 copies. That's like selling a million copies in the old pre-internet days. So, 70 copies at 5 cents per copy comes to about $3,500. That would pay about half of one month's bills for me. And yet that might take years to sell that 70,000 copies.

No - it's not millions of dollars. The old days and the old wealth is mostly gone now. The economics have changed. It's a whole new business now. Artists make nothing. Michael Jackson used to make millions and millions of dollars on his albums. His last album, released on 2006, only sold 8,000 copies in the first 3 months. That is less than $100K, when it cost over $150K to produce it. I doubt he will ever recoup his expenses on it, let alone make a profit.

Things have changed.

Where is it going in the future. Well the economics of producing a whole album of 12 songs, printing up the graphics and liner notes, pressing the CD's and distributing them out to stores worldwide, hoping that people will see them and buy them and pay $15 to $20 each for them - that just doesn't work anymore. Music stores cannot afford to keep a back catalog of any depth anymore because the costs are too high, and so there is a poor selection, and so people don't buy that way anymore. Now they buy online where they always have availability and price competitiveness.
But then, if they buy online - why buy 12 songs at once and have to wait? Why not just buy it as a download and load it straight to your iPOD and have it right now, AND only buy the songs you really want - no filler - and save time, money and resources, and the environment, for that matter. Apple sell songs for 99 cents each. Walmart sells them for 89 cents each.
So that is the future.
Without the high overhead of manufacturing and distributing products that just sit in a bin, this is much more cost effective and efficient. Maybe artists can make a living again in the future. - as long as people don't share the mp3s too much that is.....


At 1/06/2007 8:41 PM, Anonymous Igor said...

we doesn't seem to have a discussion, so I just put some thoughts:

1) first you started with:

... intellectual property as something that gives fair consideration to the originator of intellectual works ...

that's ok, then you said:

... the authors want to make a living, so they expect a return for their efforts...

that's ... not ok (later). still it's acceptable for a moment. But then you makes a U-turn:

... There is very little money in writing or recording music. ... a record company I know pays their artists 5 cents per song ... Artists make nothing...

excuse me? you defend copyright as a way for artists to get paid, then you admit that all money actually goes to mpaa/riaa fatcats, nothing gets to the creators - and you still defend the system? do I miss something?

2) ... the authors want to make a living, so they expect a return for their efforts ...

you know, that's not enough! If a group of people wants money from others, the "wants" are not enough! For example, if I say "I want money from you", would you say "ok, take my money, because you want it" ? I don't think so. Even when this group of people buys (ah, "lobbied") legislation to extent copyright forever and reduce the normal market to seller's dictatorship....

you know, the widespread "piracy" just proves that: yes, people see some value in music, but not enough (far far from enough) to justify mpaa/riaa prices and seller control. Yes, this people's verdict is not what you want, but ... life is tough.

3) comparison to pharma industry ...... yeah, it's VERY popular comparison - popular among riaa crowd, that is. Unfortunately, there are qualitative differences between music and medicine that, imho, render that comparison just plain ridiculous.

I just want to mention the difference in value of music compared to a drug. The value of a drug is obvious: without it you live a miserable life or even die. Do you really think that the music industry provide people with anything comparable in value?

Let me tell you a story. I Lived part of my adult life in a communist country. We didn't have this music industry. How did we survive? yes, we, humans, have a desire/demand/appetite for music. it's important ingredient of life. one actually cannot live without music. Sooo.... we wrote our own music (and other things). Well, not actually me - I am a zero in music - but some of my friends, yes. We have our own performances - in private parties. There was a whole "industry" - without any money involved - of enthusiasts. Literally millions of people participated - granted, most as consumers as myself, but many as creators. Stars, starlets, fans, everything. And, generally, no money changed hand. There is a russian word for that stuff: "samodeyatelnost" - meaning - literally - "doing it (culture things like music) yourself".

What I want to say: if a drug company doesn't create a drug - that's it: humans are without the medicine. there are no substitutions. On the other hand, if Mr. M. Jackson doesn't produce an album - no big deal - people won't suffer without music. There would be music - wrote by less greedy people. And, I dare say - a better music.

That is one reason why your drug comparison doesn't fly afaic. Agree?

4) let's do a thought experiment. like physicists do. Let's imagine that today's american understanding of copyright and "intellectual property" actually existed for say 2000 years. What would our world look like today?

Well, I suggest that we all would live under Uber Fuhrer-Dictator. It would actually be not a person, but some corporation. Not a public one! The corporation that owned patents/rights to: latin alphabet, digits, wheel, paper, etc... It would own patent on idea of a book, idea of a house, idea of ... anything and everything. It would probably had started small - just a patent on digits. But then the digits are ... very profitable things. So they would had been able to buy more patents, to buy legislation they wanted, and so on...

does this sound right to you?

At 1/09/2007 7:53 AM, Blogger Val Serrie said...

No Igor, that doesn't sound right.
But it is funny!
First, I was not defending copyright laws as a way for publishers and record labels to make money.
It is SUPPOSED to allow the ARTIST to make a living.
However, the economics being what they are, historically, the artist could not afford to actually record, produce, distribute, advertise, and sell his own records, so he needed the infrastructure of a record company.
They came along, realized that it was easier to find another musician to make music than to put all that infrastructure in place and operate it, so over time, that is where the bulk of the money went.
You can always find another singer, or another guitar player. They are there by the millions.
But you can't always find another record company who will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote and advertise your album, to arrange appearances, shows, interviews with media, then pay for recording studios, producers, distribution fees and costs, etc.
So, like everything else in a capitalist society, the rewards go to the ones who provide the capital. It may not be completely right, but it is how it is in this kind of system.
It is no different from any other job for a company.
Microsoft has brilliant programmers who have the ideas and genius that people need. And they provide all the work to produce a product that uses their ideas to to provide value to millions of people.
The company sells those ideas and that work and keeps almost all the profits from it? Why Because it was their capital that funded the development and they took the financial risk of investment up front. They paid salaries and capital costs ahead of time in anticipation of sales.
That is capitalism. That's just simply how it works.
If it seems unfair, then consider that the employee could save his salary and build up enough capital to start his one business and then make his own investments, risk his own time and money, make his own decisions - and maybe, if he invests wisely and correctly, then he too will make the big money in his turn.
He has the freedom to do that. That's what this society is all about really.

Your description of how music works in Russia is fascinating. I'd like to hear more about that. So music is completely free there? I wonder how people come to be famous. Is it all by word of mouth? How are CD's sold? Who does that? Is it all underground businesses? Foreign businesses? Black Market? Government issue? How does it work?

At 1/09/2007 9:12 PM, Anonymous igor said...

... I was not defending copyright laws as a way for publishers and record labels to make money.
It is SUPPOSED to allow the ARTIST to make a living.
However, the economics being what they are...

oh, yes, I understand that you are not defending "copyright laws as a way for publishers and record labels to make money". Still, you do defend the copyright laws themselves, right? In the interest of ... mmm ... content creators, yes?

But I see the problem in those "laws" themselves, Val. It's not "capitalists" who are "baaad". It's just those ridiculous "laws" that practically give license to rob consumers and to screw the interests of humans as a whole to the so-called "intellectual property owners". Forever! I understand that what you are trying to is to find a way to make the system work in the interests of artists and listeners. Still, while the current "intellectual property laws" are valid - what you want is impossible. Those laws are like a loaded gun with the attached license to kill and attached presidential pardon. IT WILL ALWAYS FIND WAY INTO HANDS OF LESS DECENT PEOPLE! Even if you find a "new way" to distribute music directly from artists to listeners, if those "laws" are still valid, your "new way" would (quickly) be hijacked by people like ... mmm ... donald trump (?). You, artists, won't have a chance against that "capitalist" crowd. And, again as today, you'd get ... 5 cent per track.

... it seems unfair ...

my mistake - I didn't explain exactly what I see as unfair. It is NOT that some people make $$$$ on the system, no, sir! I have nothing against "capitalists" & stuff. What I see as grossly unfair - is the fact that those "laws" are written by copyright "owners" exclusively in their own interests and are presented as fair legislation for all members of the society.

You can do what you want , behave in your own interests, make as much money as you can, etc, - it's fine with me. But! You absolutely cannot impose your own interests on others (and onto the society as a whole) as "laws", ok?

At 1/09/2007 9:22 PM, Anonymous igor said...


eh, Val, what I said was about the communist days.

Now, in Russia they have - as far as music is concerned - just a free-for-all. For example, "copyright owners", if they don't want "pirates" to copy and sell a particular album - the "owners" use gangsters to "teach a lesson" or they pay police to apply "copyright laws" specifically to the designated persons ("pirates").

That's why even among seemingly un-limited "piracy" some albums can be bought only at "legal" distributors.

Also, the price for "legal" albums is much much less than that in the West - otherwise no-one would buy the stuff at US prices, period.

At 1/09/2007 10:15 PM, Blogger Val Serrie said...

Actually, Igor, if you read the copyright laws you will notice that they are written "backwards". That is, they do not actually provide protection for artists to keep exclusive use of their works. Rather, they ensure that all works will pass into the public domain in 40 years. Copyrights only last for 40 years.

Furthermore, the "fair use" clause allows for unlimited use of any works for educational purposes for free at any time, and also it allows that anyone else may use the works for free if they present it in a fundamentally different way.

For example, if a song is used in a music box, or the sheet music is written on graphic artwork, or, as was in the news today, jokes from comedians are retold in a book form by someone else. It is significantly different from the original stand-up comedian live performance, and the context is different, so fair use applies, and there is no case.

Also, the laws are not clear or definitive. It is really a collection of guidelines, and it is always up to the judge to decide.

The current system of anarchy and organized crime in Russia does not sound like a workable system to me.

I wouldn't want to hire thugs to protect my interests. Also, if music is always available for free, then musicians are always forced to give away their work for free. That doesn't seem fair, does it? Why should they work for nothing? Why should they give up all their talent and effort for nothing?

At 1/11/2007 8:56 PM, Anonymous igor said...

... [copyright laws] ensure that all works will pass into the public domain in 40 years ...

You disappoint me, Val. Seriously. It seems you don't know what you are talking about. The first copyright Act, enacted at the time of US Constitution provided 14 years, if I am not mistaken. Since then media corps bought legislative extensions to those 14 years - several times. The latest extension stretched the copyright time to 90-120 years, if I remember correctly. BTW, what a coincidence! - the last extension was enabled just in time when the previous extension was "expiring" - Mickey Mouse was under mortal danger of going to public domain....

... the "fair use" clause ...

eh? Unfortunately that "fair" use clause is just what media companies allow us to have. Again - you want me to surrender to the media monopolies - because "they are nice guys, they care about me, they even allow me some "fair use"... what a generocity! No, thank you very much.

I wonder what would you say about the Digital Millennium Copyright Act... fair use, my ass!

And this "fair use" shrinks with every day. Now, with all that technology available to CONTROL what music I listen to, on what device, when, how often, under what circumstances, etc ....

... The current system of anarchy and organized crime in Russia does not sound like a workable system to me. ...

I hope you don't think that I support that anarchy.

... if music is always available for free, then musicians are always forced to give away their work for free. That doesn't seem fair, does it? Why should they work for nothing? Why should they give up all their talent and effort for nothing? ...

1) FIRST - it seems to me that you view this issue exclusively in black and white - EITHER media monopolies charge everyone to the max & so on (what mpaa/riaa wants) OR everything is for free, artists get nothing, etc ...

If that is what you think, I don't know how to explain to you that there are many grades of grey between black and white. Let me just bring to your attention that even if/when the work of an artist goes to the public domain immediately - that does NOT mean the authors cannot make (big;-) money on it! Prime example - GPL in software industry. Or, even! BSD license - and a lot of people make money on BSD products.

2) SECOND - as far as I am concerned - it is NOT the fact that I have TO PAY for music that I am against! Am I clear? What I am against is the fact that those copyright "laws" give copyright "owners" the CONTROL over how I listen to the music. And the music itself is not really important. I am worried about that this control extends to the HUMAN KNOWLEDGE itself! Some fucking copyright "owners" of a piece of human knowledge enacted "laws" that allow them to control how humans use that knowledge. Patenting human genes, scientific ideas (not yet, but I am afraid it comes to this - AND THIS IS THE REAL REASON WHY I AM SO PISSED OFF).

3) and last - a quick suggestion: you don't need current draconian copyright "laws" to make money on music. For example - you write a song, publish it and it goes to public domain - meaning anyone can do anything with it. But! you register yourself as the "author" - and now, if anyone makes money on your song - say, he prints CDs and sell them - you as author is entitled to a fixed % (say 30%) of the gross revenue. kind of "copyright tax". If he sells CDs $10 a piece, $3 go to your account. If your song is popular - there would be many biznezmen to print and sell your CDs. And you get your copyright tax. Alas, others would try to undersell and start selling CDs $5 a piece. Still you get your %. Or, if your song is really good, there would be no need to go to the bottom prices - .... - guess what have I just described? That's what MARKET is, Val! The market that is not allowed by the copyright "laws".

At 1/11/2007 10:56 PM, Blogger Val Serrie said...

My main concern in this area is not the copyright laws. It's the damn contracts that record labels have artists sign. You have to give away your rights to all your music permanently. They own it - and pay you 5 cents per song for every CD sold. If you get writing credit on all the songs for an album, that's 60 cents per CD sold - MINUS their 'Productions" fees, etc.
The artist gets screwed every time. THAT's what bugs me!

Getting 30% of a CD sounds like a dream!!!

At 1/12/2007 8:06 PM, Anonymous igor said...

Ha! If you are bugged by that, imagine what I, as consumer, feel - as I understand the wholesale cost (that includes production, marketing, distribution, everything) for a track is ~70 cents ( here ). 10-15 tracks per CD. And I pay $24.99. I would accept (grudgingly ;-) if the money would go to you, guys (artists). But they go to mpaa/riaa scumbags. And the copyright "laws" are what enables them to do that to us, the people.

... Getting 30% of a CD sounds like a dream!!! ...

yeah, but please keep in mind that the price would be decided by market, not the $24.99 set by The Monopoly. The price would be ... lower ....

At 1/13/2007 2:59 AM, Anonymous igor said...

... My main concern in this area is not the copyright laws. It's the damn contracts that record labels have artists sign. You have to give away your rights to all your music permanently. They own it ...

But, Val, those copyright "laws" are the source of the labels' power over you and me. It's those "laws" that allow them to kill market and dictate to you, an artist, and to me, a consumer.

Without those "laws" it would be impossible for the record labels to keep their grip on music. Market and competition won't allow it, you know...


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