With the flood gates down and the increased flow of music from artists all over the world, many thanks to the internet, you can’t help but wonder if originality will ever cease to exist. How long can we go on without finding ourselves unintentionally borrowing another artist’s ideas? Is it possible to be completely original anymore? More importantly, must copyright adjust and how? How can we define (in legal terms) the difference between influence and theft? Allusion vs. infringement?
Despite the difference between a musical style’s influence on your music (which can’t be helped) and straight up theft (which can), the two cannot be clearly distinguished. As in the case of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up” the similarity is undeniable. Was it intentional? Did Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams try to steel from Marvin Gaye? One can argue the likelihood of such a scenario, but it comes down to this. Give credit where credit is due. Support your fellow artists, especially if they are part of what inspired you to follow your dreams and live them. It’s the least you can do.
The article above states that the lawsuit over “Blurred Lines” only ever occurred because it was a major hit, hence major profits. A song makes money and everyone wants in! Alright, I’m not going to play dumb and say we’re all super altruistic and forget the money, but there is another side to this.
The author makes a point that you don’t hear blues songs being fought over when just about every song has the same rhythmic and chordal progression. You can’t copyright structure and characteristics of a genre or chord progressions! Also, these songs are not as well distributed among the ears of us sentient beings as a song like “Blurred Lines” is. No one person can be aware of every song in existence. If “Blurred Lines” was as obscure as most songs are, the Marvin Gaye estate might not have ever heard of it and known it existed. None of us would have. Pure and simple…
From copyright to digital rights, from sheet music to online streaming… Not to mention the endless lawsuits against artists, cons, and listeners alike, you can’t help but wonder if we’ll ever figure this thing out.
Copyright law is under the microscope and I would like to share some of what’s been going on.
In one corner we have:
The Songwriter Equity Act, proposed and denied last year, is back in the halls of congress. With this act, fair market value and digital recordings will be taken into account when setting royalty rates for songwriters. This means songwriters will get what they’ve earned according to the current market they’re selling to, which will include streaming and down loads. This will lead to a much needed rehab of outdated copyright laws. Blow off some dust if you will.
In the other corner:
The LRFA (Local Radio Freedom Act) was introduced this past February. Terrestrial radio stations, or stations that are broadcast from physical locations on the FM and AM radio waves, do not pay performance royalties. In other words, artists are not paid for their work that is played on the radio. The most radio has ever done is give artists a chance to be heard. The LRFA wants to keep it this way. Not surprisingly so, most artists and supportive organizations like the musicFirst coalition want to end terrestrial radio’s “free ride.”
We know the system is wrong as it stands. We just can’t seem to agree on how to fix it. At the moment, it is hard to visualize the path that will satisfy all sides. Is that even possible? The music industry and its law has become very complex and highly integrated. One wrong move and the whole thing collapses like it did back in the Napster days. That moment in the early 2000’s was the music industry’s wake up call. Nothing is forever, and if you don’t learn to adapt, you simply wont survive.
The following are links to articles I have read and referenced to:
You walk out, sweating, euphoric, your head all a buzz with music from the live concert you just saw, and you think to yourself, “Damn, I wish I could have recorded that…”
Well, I just read an article about a new website, still in “public BETA phase” called livetunesstore.com
Founders Rich Allen and Pete Webber came up with the wonderful idea for a platform that allows artists to sell “professional recordings” of their live performances to their avid fans. This way fans “…will enjoy the show rather than trying to juggle their phone..” to record the concert.
Aside from the little discovery I made today, I would also like to share with you the second half of my comment on the article about livetunesstore.com. One of the statements the author made in the first paragraph didn’t sit right with me (directly quoted the line from the author, not my grammar errors FYI). Here it is:
One more thing… I have some thoughts I wanted to share with you about one of your statements…
“This is a understandable trend that is likely to continue as consumer demand new ways in which to consume the music they love.”
I don’t think consumers are demanding new ways to consume music. In fact, I’d say it’s the industry’s attempt to monetize the listening experience in every way possible; the industry demands it.
Labels and artists alike need to make a profit (in some cases just a mere living would be enough) With the ever increasing losses from traditional music sales (CDs, digital downloads) they’re getting as creative as possible to fill the void. Since the options are out there, consumers are just trying them out to see which provides them with the best experience.
That’s all for now, and remember… keep it sounding right!