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Copyrights 101

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Susan-Marie 27 Jan 98 - 08:54 AM
Harald 27 Jan 98 - 11:04 AM
Bert 27 Jan 98 - 02:50 PM
Earl 27 Jan 98 - 03:35 PM
27 Jan 98 - 03:44 PM
Earl 27 Jan 98 - 04:02 PM
Jerry Friedman 27 Jan 98 - 10:49 PM
Earl 28 Jan 98 - 01:41 AM
Susan-Marie 28 Jan 98 - 08:30 AM
Alice 28 Jan 98 - 11:28 AM
Alice 02 Feb 98 - 02:16 PM
chet w 02 Feb 98 - 07:19 PM
Bert 03 Feb 98 - 09:17 AM
Alice 03 Feb 98 - 12:30 PM
Bert 03 Feb 98 - 01:11 PM
Earl 03 Feb 98 - 01:39 PM
Earl 03 Feb 98 - 01:44 PM
Old Timer 03 Feb 98 - 05:36 PM
masked avenger 03 Feb 98 - 06:24 PM
Susan-Marie 04 Feb 98 - 09:15 AM
chet w 04 Feb 98 - 06:59 PM
Jerry Friedman 05 Feb 98 - 05:04 PM
Joe Offer 06 Feb 98 - 03:24 AM
20 Mar 98 - 05:32 PM
20 Mar 98 - 06:06 PM
Jack mostly folk 21 Mar 98 - 12:07 AM
steve t 22 Mar 98 - 12:19 AM
Timothy Jaques tjaques@netcom.ca 22 Mar 98 - 07:48 PM
T. in Oklahoma 09 Nov 98 - 02:09 PM
Barbara 09 Nov 98 - 02:39 PM
Songbob 09 Nov 98 - 03:01 PM
T in Oklahoma 09 Nov 98 - 03:04 PM
T in Olkahoma 09 Nov 98 - 03:29 PM
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Subject: Copyrights 101
From: Susan-Marie
Date: 27 Jan 98 - 08:54 AM

This forum has been a great source of basic information on music and computers, so I thought I'd throw something else into the stew - copyrights, as they relate to performing music live (not recorded, that's a whole other scenario). I have always assumed that I don't need to worry about copyrights if I sing a traditional song (because they're not copyrighted) or if I sing any song at a public gathering where no money is involved (either as payment to me or admission from the listeners). Is that correct so far? And what happens if I am being paid, or if I'm not being paid but the listeners are paying admission? If I buy sheet music, does the money I've paid for the sheet music give me the right to perform the song? What about if I don't buy sheet music (because it isn't available) but I learn a song off someone's CD? How do I acquire the right to perform that song?


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Subject: RE: Copyrights 101
From: Harald
Date: 27 Jan 98 - 11:04 AM

And what about recording a CD with nothing but traditionals on it ?


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Subject: RE: Copyrights 101
From: Bert
Date: 27 Jan 98 - 02:50 PM

"I have always assumed that I don't need to worry about copyrights if I sing a traditional song......"

I don't think that's strictly true. It is possible to copyright a specific arrangement of a traditional song.

So for example if you were to sing "The Spinners" version of "Swansea Town" then they could theoretically get you for infringement of copyright.

I really don't think it's much of a problem unless you are (or some one is) making big bucks from the performance of a song.

Then I guess that you would ask the holder of the copyright.

Bert (always willing to pontificate on a subject - However little I know about it)


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Subject: RE: Copyrights 101
From: Earl
Date: 27 Jan 98 - 03:35 PM

What about all the traditional songs I see in books with "copyrignt John A. and Alan Lomax" does that have any meaning these days?


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Subject: RE: Copyrights 101
From:
Date: 27 Jan 98 - 03:44 PM

unless the copyright has been renewed, it lapses after ___???* years [sheet music is different than books] If they were traditional when Lomax collected them, it is just his BOOK that is copyrighted. As another poster noted, an ARRANGEMENT *can* be copyrighted, but everything "anon." or "trad" is in the public domain.


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Subject: RE: Copyrights 101
From: Earl
Date: 27 Jan 98 - 04:02 PM

I have book, not written by the Lomax's, which has "John Hardy", "Tom Dooley", and several others followed by the lines: "Copyright 1947 by John A. and Alan Lomax, from 'Folk Song: U.S.A', by John A. and Alan Lomax by permission of Duel, Sloan & Pearce, Inc."

I assume that means the author of my book took the words and melody line directly from the Lomax book, but it still doesn't feel right to see copyrights after those songs.


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Subject: RE: Copyrights 101
From: Jerry Friedman
Date: 27 Jan 98 - 10:49 PM

A good place to start might be Terry Carroll's Copyright FAQ . He's an intellectual-property lawyer. One point he emphasizes is that, in his reading of the law, whether money changes hands does NOT usually matter (contrary to popular opinion).

Unfortunately, the last time I looked he didn't address the interesting question of attempts to copyright folk material. If there's any justice, those attempts shouldn't work. That is, if you performed a folk song copyrighted by the Lomaxes and then their heirs sued you, I HOPE you could win by proving that the song existed in the public domain before the year they copyrighted it. But I don't know whether the law works that way.

Incidentally, attributions are sometimes wrong. So sometimes songs listed somewhere as "Trad." are actually copyrighted by somebody.


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Subject: RE: Copyrights 101
From: Earl
Date: 28 Jan 98 - 01:41 AM

In one case, Led Zeppelin, recorded a song, I think it was "Ramble On", and listed it as tradional. They had heard it on a Joan Baez album and didn't bother to check. The actual author heard the song when her son played the record. She sued and won but the copyright had expired so she got no royalties but they had to change future songbooks.

Or is this an urban myth?


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Subject: RE: Copyrights 101
From: Susan-Marie
Date: 28 Jan 98 - 08:30 AM

Jerry - Thanks for the link to the copyright FAQ. It seems to say that once a work is created, it is automatically copyrighted, and the holder of the copyright has the exclusive right of performance until 50 or so years after they die.

That's the law, but I hear people performing music written by others all the time, so I'm beginning to think that there may be an unwritten understanding among musicians that their work can be performed by others as long as it is attributed correctly, and, as Bert said, no-one's making big bucks off it. For big-bucks musicians, I would think use of someones else's songs would happen only with written permission, and possibly a piece of the profits?

Wasn't there a discussion of this in the newspapers a year or so ago? Something about performing songs at girl scout camps?

I realize this could be a touchy subject, but I'm hoping that someone with first-hand knowledge of performing music in something other than a song circle can shed some light on this.


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Subject: RE: Copyrights 101
From: Alice
Date: 28 Jan 98 - 11:28 AM

Susan-Marie, since I am a commercial illustrator, copyright law is a major importance in my work. As in music, artwork and copyright ownership are vested in the hands of the artist at the creation of the work. Whether the artist registers a copyright on the piece with the government or not, the creator of the work owns the copyright unless he or she transfers it IN WRITING to another. I sell the rights (not the entire ©) to use my illustrations to manufacturers, and the extent of the use is related to the price they pay for the rights to use the work. I have had to prove copyright ownership when my work has been "stolen", (used without my permission and without paying me). The manufacturer had to pay me for having used my design on their products. That happened when someone took a cap of one of my client's and asked two other garment companies to copy the elk design on the cap. I found out by seeing a jacket in a catalog with my design on it. I think everyone should realize that those who create a song or an arrangement need to protect their work, especially when it is their livelihood to get income from their work. The artist who holds the copyright should receive their legally protected payment for the rights to use their work. I think it is riduculous, though, to take that as far as campfire singalongs, etc. I did once want to use an obscure Joni Mitchell song when I was looking for an appropriate song to use as the soundtrack on a non-profit film documentary. I contacted her lawyers by phone and asked for permission and what it would cost. As it turned out, a small band from Denver had written an even more appropriate song, and they decided to donate a recording of it to the film. If you know there really is an "owner" of a copyright, get legal permission to perform or record a song. alice in Montana


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Subject: RE: Copyrights 101
From: Alice
Date: 02 Feb 98 - 02:16 PM

Susan-Marie's question is such an important one, that although I posted a long rambling message above, I'm returning to this topic to post an address to the BMI website,

http://bmi.com

which has information about songwriter's rights and how they get paid.

alice


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Subject: RE: Copyrights 101
From: chet w
Date: 02 Feb 98 - 07:19 PM

Advice: If you're writing songs that you think somebody might possibly want to make money off of, you should get a publisher, or become your own publisher (doesn't mean you have to publish, as in print, anything) and join either BMI (Broadcast Music International) or ASCAP (meaning of abbreviation unknown). They will collect your royalties for you, and after taking a hefty slice off the top, send you the rest. Otherwise you are on your own when it comes to collecting royalties from around the world. As for performing, it has always been my understanding that the owners (or renters) of the venue are responsible for paying a licensing fee to BMI and ASCAP. If you are recording something that you intend to sell, even at cost, you owe royalties to the copyright owners, if any. Your publisher or BMI or ASCAP should be able to get you in touch with the Harry Fox Agency in New York, who knows the copyright owners of everything. If you are making a recording that you plan to give away, you will owe no royalties, but anyone who uses that recording in a public place, such as in a restaurant or on the radio, will owe royalties to the owners. It gets a lot worse than this.

Good luck, Chet W.


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Subject: RE: Copyrights 101
From: Bert
Date: 03 Feb 98 - 09:17 AM

Here is another opinion


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Subject: RE: Copyrights 101
From: Alice
Date: 03 Feb 98 - 12:30 PM

Bert, didn't have time to read all of it, but found it very interesting. alice


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Subject: RE: Copyrights 101
From: Bert
Date: 03 Feb 98 - 01:11 PM

Yes, he does go on a bit though, doesn't he.


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Subject: RE: Copyrights 101
From: Earl
Date: 03 Feb 98 - 01:39 PM

If the issue is protecting original songs, the cheapest and simplest approach (in the U.S.) is to register then with the U.S. Copyright Office. If the issue is collecting royalties, I think you have to swim with the sharks.


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Subject: RE: Copyrights 101
From: Earl
Date: 03 Feb 98 - 01:44 PM

I meant to include this link: U.S. Copyright Office


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Subject: RE: Copyrights 101
From: Old Timer
Date: 03 Feb 98 - 05:36 PM

As a practical matter, I don't think anyone has much to worry about if they are singing around the campfire or at a festival/jam session. I'm talking about anyone who is singing for fun- not profit. While you can be sued by anyone, including a copyright holder, it just doesn't make much sense for them to do so. Copyright holders and lawyers are interested in deep pockets. When you start making money from their material, or causing them significant financial loss in some way, then you need to look out. Am I saying that you should violate someone's copyright? Absolutely not! I'm just saying that there is not a copyright SWAT team out to hassle us amatuers. You Pros earning a living at music face a different situation.

Have Fun!

OT


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Subject: RE: Copyrights 101
From: masked avenger
Date: 03 Feb 98 - 06:24 PM

There are so many aspects to this, even for amateurs. I'd suggest that to some extent (not totally, of course) it is a matter of good manners. Are you gonna make money because you're using what someone else created and owns? Then have the manners to ask that person if it's okay. This can be done legalistically or informally--it's up to the user to do it the right way.

Examples: my group wanted to record "The world turned upside down." We wrote directly to the author, Leon Rosselson, and asked for permission. He was very willing to give it. A short exchange of letters resulted in a payment to him of royalties. No problem. That, I call the informal way. When we went looking for permission to record something written by one of Peter, Paul & Mary, it was a different story. We dealt with publishers and publishers' agents, some of whom had ceased to exist years ago. But in the end we got permission and paid royalties. That, I call the legalistic way.

As for performing, there's an approach I call "common sense." If you perform a copyright tune for profit, someone should pay the copyright owner. This may be covered by a license granted to the venue, or a deal between the presenter and a rights organization like ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Author & Publishers) or SOCAN (Society of Canadian Authors & Composers). Otherwise, your own conscience, common sense, and decency will probably give you the right direction.


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Subject: RE: Copyrights 101
From: Susan-Marie
Date: 04 Feb 98 - 09:15 AM

Wow, I thought this thread had died, but since it's back I'll try to put some closure on it.

I appreciate Old Timer's comments because they reflect what I've been able to gather from reading legal stuff, corresponding with ASCAP, and talking to people in my area who perform locally for small amounts of money.

The bottom line is that you should get permission before using someone's music, and that is done by writing a letter or calling, usually to the publisher. It was suggested that you provide your own "I give permission" form letter for someone to sign and send back to you in the stamped, self-addressed envelope you provide. However, copyright laws exist to protect artists from losing money because someone else is making money off their work. If I sing a song at my church's coffeehouse, the artist is not losing any money (and in at least one case someone bought the artist's CD because they liked the song I sang). I should ask permission first, and I could get sued if I don't, but I suspect the publishers and copyright owners have better things to do than track me down if I don't.

Most of us want to do the right thing, so it's helpful to have the basic rules and the "real life" context. Thanks to everyone who's contributed to this thread.


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Subject: RE: Copyrights 101
From: chet w
Date: 04 Feb 98 - 06:59 PM

Interestingly, in the US the owner does not have the right to refuse to let anyone do his/her songs as long as they are willing to pay a reasonable rate. In some other countries, such as Ireland and France, the author has complete control. In Ireland artists are not even required to pay income taxes. Why can't we do this here? Write your congressman!

Chet W.


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Subject: RE: Copyrights 101
From: Jerry Friedman
Date: 05 Feb 98 - 05:04 PM

If Michael Jackson didn't pay income tax, it would unbalance the federal budget.

I can't believe that a composer has to allow people to perform songs for royalties. Is that only if the songs are registered with ASCAP or BMI or something?

Incidentally, posting copyrighted lyrics here without permission seems like an infringement. I have no idea what chance there is that it could lead to trouble for the forum and the DT.


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Subject: RE: Copyrights 101
From: Joe Offer
Date: 06 Feb 98 - 03:24 AM

Within the last year or so, "Sing Out!" Magazine had an excellent article about copyrights. Of course, now that I'm looking for it, I can't find it. Can anybody cite it for me? Editor Mark Moss has also had a couple of columns about copyright infringement, specifically with regards to the Digital Tradition.
On today's (2/5) "Marketplace" program on National Public Radio, there was an interesting piece at the end about marketing on the Internet, and how people are making money by posting entire books on the Internet, enticing purchases because people who are halfway normal won't read an entire book on a computer screen. Publishers can also keep out-of-print books alive by having them available on the Internet. I think the same goes for songs, that publishers are wrong to crack down on lyrics sites. If lyrics (and even tunes) are posted, they can encourage people to buy songbooks and recordings. some of this is being done - if you want to hear what a song sounds like, try the CD marketers, like www.musicboulevard.com and www.cdnow.com and www.cdworld.com or www.rounder.com. Lots of wonderful RealAudio clips are available.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Copyrights 101
From:
Date: 20 Mar 98 - 05:32 PM

Important web sites for copyright issues:

Dennis Karjala's "Opposing Copyright Extension" web page: http://www.public.asu.edu/~dkarjala/

Marji Hazen's "Music in the Public Domain" web site: http://ne1.bright.net/pdinfo/pdm2

and the links they point to.

Terry Carrol's site has already been posted to this thread.


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Subject: RE: Copyrights 101
From:
Date: 20 Mar 98 - 06:06 PM

When it's "small potatoes"---as Gamble Rogers said, "It's easier to get forgiveness than permission."


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Subject: RE: Copyrights 101
From: Jack mostly folk
Date: 21 Mar 98 - 12:07 AM

I question Woody Guthrie writing all these BPA project song while under contract to the US of A. Government bucks paid the man to write songs to stroke the people and politicians into their scheme of things. His foundation still controls and holds copyrights to all his songs, even the ones he ripped off from Hudie. Woody certainly did'nt seem to care who he borrowed from, why should we. Are the song cops going to arrest us? I really favor paying struggling songwriters for their goods, but it becomes such a hassle dealing with the powers that perhaps its just easier to say, "find me and I'll gladly pay you". More and more venues seem to be touched or strong armed by ASCAP and BMI pressures to pay for the right or don't book artist who do material besides their own. OOOuch! Have you ever been a member or affiliated with any members of the comunist party? Lets see, if you are a member, you work. What a lovely idea, maybe we should re write the FREE speech amendmendment. Every time I purchase a CD or tape, a good portion of that price pays the dues, so chalenge the system. Do it. Jack mostly folk


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Subject: RE: Copyrights 101
From: steve t
Date: 22 Mar 98 - 12:19 AM

A friend and incredible song writer told me a few months ago NOT to put his songs on the web because they weren't in "fixed form". I expect this means he hadn't written down the notes. He mentioned problems Elizabeth Cotten had with "Freight Train." Now I quote from RUS, page 233:

Libba Cotten...composed this song and taught it to the Seegers and other folk artists in the New York area. Some English folk singers learned the song from the latter, adapted it slightly and filed copyright forms for the song. Libba was unable to win the rights back to her song in the '50s.

RUS lists her estate as holding the copyright so maybe she eventually got the rights back, or at least she got the US rights.

I don't think copyright is as clear as, "Joe wrote it, Joe owns it." A folk afficionado once assured me that even though "arrangements" could be copyrighted, simple chords could NOT be copyrighted, probably because chords alone can be played in so many different ways. I've also heard that information can't be copyrighted -- to the consternation of the phone companies who want everyone to dial 4-1-1.

The laws vary from country to country. Until recently, amateurs in Canada could get away without paying royalties even when they performed copyrighted songs on television. Changing this law wiped out a few popular local TV programs.

My hope and expectation is that even if the soulless ones manage to shut down sites like Digital Tradition and OLGA in the United States (that damned Harry Fox Agency has gotten some more OLGA sites closed down), there will continue to be safe haven for them somewhere on the net.


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Subject: RE: Copyrights 101
From: Timothy Jaques tjaques@netcom.ca
Date: 22 Mar 98 - 07:48 PM

I didn't know that about artists not paying income tax in Ireland. Is this to encourage traditional musicians from around the world to emigrate there?

An English author (can't recall the name; he was a lawyer who wrote the funny book Uncommon Law) once argued that as an author he should get tax deductions in the same manner as any other businessman. He argued that if an entrepreneur could deduct normal business costs, then that right should be open to him. He felt that trips abroad and to exotic places were essential costs to his business as an author, and that this expense should be deducted from his income taxes. No doubt musicians could argue that similar trips are necessary to conduct their business -- how can you write about life if you aren't experiencing it? :)


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Subject: RE: Copyrights 101
From: T. in Oklahoma
Date: 09 Nov 98 - 02:09 PM

Folks on this list should be aware that the term of copyright in the U.S. for pre-1978 works has been raised from 75 to 95 years. Twenty more years of raking it in for Disney and the Gershwin Trust.

As I understand the new law (but as usual on internet discussion lists, this is not legal advice, nothing in this post establishes a lawyer-client relationship, in fact I'm not even a lawyer, etc.), U.S. copyrights which were secured in 1922 or earlier have expired. Copyrights from 1923 will expire on January 1, 2019, assuming the Gershwin trust and Disney don't make a few strategic campaign contributions 18 or so years from now and get another extension.


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Subject: RE: Copyrights 101
From: Barbara
Date: 09 Nov 98 - 02:39 PM

I have a related question.
What happens if I write out someone else's song and publish the printed sheet music in a non-profit organization's newsletter? (A folk music club) I assume I should find the person first and ask, but should I expect to pay? Or should they thank me for getting them published? (grin)
Blessings,
Barbara


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Subject: RE: Copyrights 101
From: Songbob
Date: 09 Nov 98 - 03:01 PM

Some of the information in these postings is pretty good, and some of it is not quite correct.

Permission, for example, is only required when you seek to be the first to record a song. Till it's recorded, it's up to the writer to give or withhold permission. Once recorded, though, the writer HAS to give permission -- it's called "compulsary license" -- and the new recording's publishers (record company, performer, etc.) has to pay the statutory royalty ($.07 / copy manufactured) to the writer(s). Now, this weekend, I was talking to Sandy Paton, and he said there was something new in the recent change of the law (which also extended copyright from 50 to 70 years past the writer's death, to match the rest of the world) which required permission to record anything already recorded (in effect changing the "compulsary license" part of the law. I'm asking around the songwriting community for more on this subject, but no results yet.

As for performing a copyrighted song, if it's on a record, you can play it, sing it, whatever, wherever you want. The venue is supposed to pay any royalties due for such performance (which gave rise to the contretemps last year or so with ASCAP & BMI coming down on the Girl Scouts for using copyrighted campfire songs). The rules can seem contrary to reason, sometimes, but that's how it works.


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Subject: RE: Copyrights 101
From: T in Oklahoma
Date: 09 Nov 98 - 03:04 PM

Barbara,

I'm not my folk club's newletter editor. If I were, I THINK I would clear all copyrights before printing copyrighted music or words in the newsletter. As I vaguely recall from the last time I looked at Title 17 (but remember, I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice, nothing in this post establishes a lawyer-client relationship, etc. etc.) there is a general fair-use exception in 17 U.S.C. #107, and some very limited non-profit public performance exceptions in 17 U.S.C. #110, but I don't recall any non-profit publication exemption, nor does publication in a club newletter currently strike me as a fair use. Of course,maybe I'd be singing a different tune if I actually had to deal with the problems of editorship.

Copyright clearance should be fairly easy if the composer and lyricist are both club members. If one or the other or both aren't, it gets a bit harder. If copyright clearance got to be too much trouble, I suppose I'd either drop music from the newsletter, or print lots of PD while encouraging in-house (in-club?) songwriting.


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Subject: RE: Copyrights 101
From: T in Olkahoma
Date: 09 Nov 98 - 03:29 PM

Songbob:

Most of "the rest of the world" has a term of life+50 for author copyrights. It is mainly in Europe that the life-plus-seventy term has been implemented. Canada and Australia, as well as Japan, still have life+50 so far as I know.

In any case, "harmonization" with Europe was just a shallow excuse for the copyright extension. If it had been the real real reason, the new law would only have extended post-1978 author copyrights. It would have left works for hire (which, to the extent that they exist at all in Europe, have 70-year or shorter terms) with their old 75-year term. And it would have left pre-1978 copyrights alone, since these fixed-term copyrights can't be "harmonized" with anything in European law anyhow.

The real reason for the new law is special-interest rent-seeking. As an article in the Toronto Sun recently put it, "When the time came to abide by the rules, [Disney] simply sought to change the rules--something you can do in a country that boasts of its legislative checks and balances (ie: a cheque for one billion dollars balances off one million votes)."

The copyright extension on pre-1978 works makes me feel as if I were a homeowner just a few years from paying off the mortgage. Suddenly the banks sends some tough guys with baseball bats who say, "That house you bought for $100,000 ? We've decided it should have been $200,000. You owe us 20 more years of house payments. Pay up!"


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Mudcat time: 12 November 10:33 PM EST

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