All Rights Reserved……?

8 Jul

Why Have Copyright…..?

The law of copyright is intended to protect people whose commodities are not always material or the physical product of a manufacturing process.  A person, whose property is ‘intellectual’ and, due to the lack of materials needed to produce it, is easily copied or redistributed, should therefore retain control of usage and gain remuneration from intellectual property which is a fair proposal when one takes into account the apparent simplicity of some inventions and the ease with which they can be reproduced.  However, the apparent simplicity belies what can amount to years of research, education, refinement and development.  As an example the light bulb would be a suitable candidate.  What now seams obvious was once a challenging problem.  Sending a current through a wire in order to produce light, although now common place was in the 19th century, a formidable challenge.  Thomas Edison, or more accurately the army of highly skilled scientists in his employ, spent hundreds of man-hours perfecting the materials and techniques needed to produce the incandescent light bulb.  And it is for that scenario that Patent and Copyright laws were intended.  In much the same way, a writer, photographer or musician is offered the same protection, in that what they produce may appear fleeting, it may have taken a lifetime of dedication and refinement to perfect……

The Reality of Copyright…….

In the 21st century Copyright can prove a little harder to enforce, especially with the advances in technology which make the reproduction and distribution of intellectual property much easier.  A manufacturing process, or the copying of a product, is still apparently well served by the existing legislation.  When a large company steels an idea from another, law suits are filed and are often reasonably easy to resolve, as Sir James Dyson, inventor of the dual cyclone, bag-less vacuum cleaner, can attest to.  It is within the creative arts where the law falls short and is somewhat harder to implement.  With major record labels struggling to stop the exponential spread of digitally encoded media, what are the chances that the owner of intellectual property can be the benefactor of what is rightfully theirs, especially without the legal representation afforded to big business…..?

At this point I will declare my own interest.  I own the mechanical copyright to all material produced under my ‘production company’ name.  I also have a prolific output of music covering the last 20 years, as an individual and in collaboration with others.  Entering my name into Google, YouTube and even iTunes returns a back catalogue with multiple sources from which to ‘add to my basket’ at 79 pence per tune; none of which has ever found its way to my bank account, as contractually, it should have……

The File Sharing ‘Get Out’ Clause……

The ‘standard’ defence of file sharing websites has remained consistent since the early legal challenges were made against sites like Napster.  They argue that what they provide is a platform for sharing/exchanging files.  As the files originate from the individual members of the platform, no copyright infringement has taken place by the host of the site and, it is the sender and receiver who are committing the offence.  This defence is further strengthened by the T&C’s we all agree to, usually without reading them, which state that any copyright should be respected, although, the policing of this policy is questionably, questionable!

Adding another layer of confusion is that of sharing files to and from multiple sources.  Bittorrent and eTorrent are the perfect demonstration of this.  When the user requests a download, it comes in ‘chunks’ from more than one user and is reassembled ‘inside’ your computer.  If you wanted to bring legal proceedings against a torrent user you may have an extremely full courtroom……

Of course the industry has tried to oppose the file sharing culture in an attempt to limit the damage to their profit margins, usually acquiring the offending website and introducing a charge for using it.  When sufficiently threatened by lawyers some sites revert to the previously described scenario that it ‘wasn’t us gov, it was our members’ after which a ‘Removed Due to Copyright Infringement’ banner appears……

The other major problem faced by the copyright owner of music, film or photography is that each breach of copyright is treated as a separate incident so you would have to file a separate law suit for each infringement; a completely unworkable situation……

I would have liked the royalties for the 10’s of 1000’s of plays I’ve had on YouTube though, as I would have from radio plays which are policed by the MCPS & PRS in theUK……

On The Plus Side……

Fortunately, Tim Berners-Lee, the founding father of the interweb, wasn’t a megalomaniac who could probably be richer than Bill (I messed up your life) Gates, had he copyrighted the World Wide Web, instead he gave it to the world for all to use.  This has had two profound and wide reaching results; firstly, the governments of the world no longer control the flow of information and, second and more important, anything that limits the amount of cash Simon Cowell can make can’t be a bad thing……

And Finally……

I have been able to get hold of recordings I made years ago which I though were lost forever.  Although I personally believe copyright infringement can suppress the creativity of artists, some people are lucky enough to become famous through the ‘viral’ spread of their music over the web.  I’m just bitter and twisted cause I did it the hard way when making a record cost time, money and hard work; none of which I now receive any financial reward for……

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