1709 Blog: for all the copyright community

Sunday, 22 March 2015

The CopyKat - prowling

In the wake of the jury’s verdict in the "Blurred Lines case", Marvin Gaye’s children have filed a new motion to list three record labels and rapper TI as responsible parties in the case – and thus also hold them accountable for the already decided copyright infringement by Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams. Gaye’s three children Nona, Frankie, and Marvin III, have also written and published an open letter, clarifying their motivations behind taking the copyright case to court on their father’s behalf. In the original trial, the jury exonerated TI and the recorded music labels and distributors Universal Music, Interscope Records and Williams’s Star Trak Entertainment of infringement. A second motions seeks to halt the sale and reproduction of Blurred Lines until both parties reach an agreement on how the Gayes “may share in the copyright and all future proceeds of Blurred Lines, as is their right”. More here.

Rapper and producer RZA says there should be a limit on how much an artist can recover if their songs are sampled without consent. Speaking at SXSW, the Wu-Tang Clan co-founder said that while artists who inspire should be paid, there should be a limit to how much they can demand, especially if the money isn't actually going to the artist: “Art is something that’s made to inspire the future," he said during his stay in Austin, according to the Daily Beast. "If you utilize somebody’s artistic expression blatantly, to [the point] where it’s an identifiable thing, then there should be some sort of compensation to the person who inspires you.” Arguing the sampling itself is creative and an art form, the Shaolin producer, known for crafting unexpected beats from esoteric samples, called for a 50% cap for retroactive payments of sampled material saying "There should be a cut off. Fifty percent is the most” commenting "The Greeks could come sue everybody because one generation teaches the other” and “When you hear an A chord to the D to the E, there are over one million songs with that same progression. And each one of their songs is identified as their own. The point being that art will continue to inspire the next generation, and we will find duplication” before going on to reveal "“I’ve been in situations where I’ve sampled something and the original copyright holder took 90 percent .... That means they ignored all the programming, drumming, keyboard playing I played on top of it, they ignored every lyric, every hook, everything that we built to make it a song. And we wound up selling more copies than the sample[d] version—but yet they took 90 percent of the song.”

And Grammy winner John Legend is also concerned that the Blurred Lines verdict could set a worying precedent for artists creating music inspired by others. The Grammy winner told the Associated Press he understands why people say Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke's 2013 hit sounds like Marvin Gaye's Got To Give It Up from 1977, adding: 'I said that when I first heard it, too.' But he said he doesn't agree with the jury that determined the performers actually copied elements of Marvin's work but said  "There's a lot of music out there, and there's a lot of things that feel like other things that are influenced by other things" adding "And you don't want to get into that thing where all of us are suing each other all the time because this and that song feels like another song.'"

More copyright, more "Quality Works"? Not quite but maybe, says a study of Italian opera before 1900. As Italy had a wide variety of copyright law provisions until  the late 1860s when Italy itself was finally unified, Stanford economists Petra Moser and Michela Giorcelli compared the varying degrees of copyright protection to the output of operas, compiling a database of more than 2,598 Italian operas written between 1770 and 1900 - and then looked at the longevity of each opera right up to how many recordings of any opera were available in 2014 on Amazon. Vox explains "Copyright laws seem to have created significantly more operas that also had staying power and were of higher quality" and details:  "States with copyrights ended up producing 2.68 additional operas per year, a 121 percent increase over states without copyrights. Historically popular operas (as measured by the 1978 publication, the Annales of Opera 1597-1940) grew by 47 percent, and durable operas [those available on Amazon in 2014] grew by 80 percent.”

Is copyright a human right? Well, the United Nations Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Farida Shaheed, has presented the first of two consecutive studies, “Copyright Policy and the Right to Science and Culture,” at the 28th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Shaheed addressed copyright law and policy issues, examining how they may run counter to human rights. The second part of her report will be submitted to the UN General Assembly later this year addressing the connection between the right to science and culture and patent policy. More by Pauline Lee on the excellent Washington College of Law website here.

And finally, The Verge tells us that after pressure from campaigners, SpaceX has published a first batch of more than 100 photos on Flickr under a Creative Commons license. The decision gives the public the ability to download and remix the images freely (as long as they're attributed properly) and has been welcomed as a success for both space fans and copyright advocates. Unlike images of space published by NASA, SpaceX's photos do have some rights reserved, meaning they can't be used for commercial purposes. SpaceX "designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. The company was founded in 2002 to revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets."

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