Intellectual Property, Copyright and the Internet

This week was all about Intellectual Property (IP), Copyright and the Internet.  Firstly, let’s ask what IP actually is.  It is a bundle of rights that protect applications of ideas and information that have commercial value.  It gives artists and creators some control over their pieces of work and prevent others from using them without permission.  As for copyright – this is the right to copy, as the name suggests.  It exists to secure the original artists relative economic security.  So, what can be owned?  What rights do musicians actually have?  Do we really need IP and copyright laws?

Some musicians are happy to give their music away for free and are happy to allow others to remix and re use their music using the creative commons act.  This act is constantly gaining more support and it’s creators stress how they are pro copyright and are trying to help deal with copyright problems that arose from the internet.  It aims to put a bit more of the power into the artists hand.  Here is a link to a video which further describes creative commons.  The second part can be found in the suggestions on the side.

Other musicians however, like to make sure they are getting everything they deserve.  As soon as a musician or group of musicians take the music they’ve created and record it professionally in a studio with a producer, they are already losing out to some extent.  They will still own the song itself, but the producer now owns the recording.  Next in line is the record companies.  The producer will sell the copyrights of that recording to a record company and you, the musician, will be losing out even more.  However, this process is necessary for an up and coming artist.  So, what the artist must keep track of is the money that is going to them for the song they have written.  They must be careful that when signing contracts etc that they know what they are signing.  It’s not unknown for greedy record companies to keep more than they should.

This is why copyright laws are needed.  Without them, artists would be finding themselves with nothing to show for their own creations.  It is in the interest of everybody involved that copyright laws are there.  Without them, many artists might stop making their art as they would have no control of it.  If the artists stopped making their art, the producers and companies would fall apart.  So, in my opinion they are absolutely necessary for the continuation and growth of art and cultural content.

It is now 70 years from the artists death that they own the copyright to a song.  This was designed to ensure that it lasts both the artists life and a large portion of their children’s life too and has only been lifted from 50 years to 70 years in recent years.  Other acts have come in over recent years to try and deal with copyright issues such as the Digital Economy Act of 2010.  This was designed to get Internet Service Providers to work more closely with right holders and if necessary take action against those who infringe copyright laws.

So as you can see, there are still and probably always will be certain issues with copyright and IP but there are always people trying to sort this out as much as possible (creative commons, Digital Economy Act etc..).  It will be interesting to see what other steps will be taken in coming years.

Here is a link to a letter sent from producer Steve Albini to Nirvana that has emerged recently.  It relates to this topic and the way relationships work between producers and artists.  It is a very interesting approach, particularly to the money side of things and well worth the read.


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