Copyrights – Its Gotta be Eve’s Fault…

Copyrights nowadays can be one of the biggest pains in the neck, especially for a conductor trying to do the right thing but finding him/herself in an ethical vs. legal battle. Such stress and tedious work could only come from God’s punishment on Eve for taking the forbidden fruit. So what the Bible doesn’t specify is that God would make man work for his food, make childbirth painful for women, and invent this wonderful little phenomenon called copyrights…

All over the world, every single day, copyright laws are broken. Some violations are obviously worthy or penalization while others are more like an issue of personal ethics than an outright infringement. Millions of people worldwide share music and illegally copy and distribute it over the internet and cost publishers and record companies loads of money. Fewer in number are the people daring enough to copy DVDs and CDs and sell them on street corners. Both of these examples are obviously illegal however many people still download free music or buy a cheap DVD somewhere because its easier and cheaper and that is what society values in this day and age. On the other hand are the instances where copyright laws seem to fail ethically. A band director who ordered a full arrangement of music but when receives it, there is one too few clarinet parts. It would be very simple for the conductor to simply make a copy for the clarinetist to use. This, however, is an infringement of copyright laws. Publishing companies would force the conductor to go through a long complicated procedure in order to obtain the single missing copy he/she needs. Publishing companies need to reexamine the relationship they have with their users to make music more accessible without doing anything illegal. The specific example I would like demonstrate in this article is one about copying and distributing performed music: Are ensembles allowed to film themselves and freely distribute the video to those within the ensemble either “for cost” or at “no cost”?

Picture a school that just put on an amazing band concert and video taped it to keep it on record. So far the school has done nothing illegal assuming that they went through the appropriate means of obtaining the music performed and did not illegally copy any of it. The problem comes when additional copies are made and then those copies are distributed freely or sold to those who want a copy of it. According to copyright law, you cannot make any additional copies of a live performance other than the original which must be solely used for record purposes. If the school wanted to reproduce and sell or give away copies of the concert to parents, students, performers and anyone else who wanted one, they would have to get permission from the publisher of each song performed in the recording and also get permission from every parent of the kids performing (yes even the relatively insignificant triangle player who only hits it once in the middle of the loudest song). This is an almost impossible task. If one publishing company refused to grant permission or if some Amish parent doesn’t want their son to be on television


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then it would not be legal for anyone to obtain a copy of the performance. Some people may try and ethically find loopholes in order to still make and distribute copies. One could simply cut out the song that the publisher did not grant permission to use or, on an even creepier scale, cut out the Amish performer himself and leave his trumpet floating in mid-air. Since neither of these options are really ideal, many schools just don’t worry about the laws and freely distribute the music that they practiced and they performed. After all, they already paid for the music in the first place right?

These are the problems we encounter today. There is a tough line to define between what is legal and what is bogus, what is ethical and what is quick and easy, and what is fair and what publishers should stop monopolizing. It is a shame that there exists such a tradegy as “rights.” Composers compose so that other peope can listen and appreciate what they have written, not so they can rake in loads of cash and charge tons of money for people to use their music. Its the publishing companies that are out to make a profit from someone’s masterpiece. In my opinion, they’re as bad as the serpent….From

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*Author’s note: You may want to read this article from a distance just in case your computer gets struck by a lightning bolt from God…


~ by jcain on March 25, 2007.

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