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Monday, 11 April 2005

US Court secures classical copyright

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Music | Court secures classical copyright: "A major change to US music copyright practices could be in the offing after a court ruled a record label broke the law by reissuing old recordings. New York's highest court said Naxos was wrong to release classical recordings by Yehudi Menuhin and others - even though they were out of copyright. The court said such recordings were still covered by common law. The victorious Capitol label, which owns the rights, said the decision had 'enormous importance'. "

Regular readers will know that I am really interested in the whole issue of copyright, and the importance of balancing the rights of the artist with those of the wider creative process and the public. I'm a big fan of Naxos records - they have reworked the world of the classical music labels. They have also re-worked the whole idea of a budget label, producing work of a high standard, and often producing world premieres. They also release difficult music, not just keeping to the safety of popular classics.

It is astounding that the US courts are undermining the fundamental principle that copyright has a time limit to it. This is really important if we are to see work coming into the public domain for wider dissemination, and for broader use by the creative community.

The article which I quote above, also points out that the early recordings for the pop and rock scene are approaching the 50 year threshhold for copyright - there are implications in this ruling for the work of The Beatles and others.

Let's not forget that court actions like this one were not taken to protect the work of an artist and their family. This is about large corporations protecting what they see as their property. It is important that the legal system sets a clear time-limit to this, so that the public domain can work as it should. For a great example of the public domain, and the power of the internet, take a look at the growing archive of early movies which are now out of copyright at the internet archive.

2 comments:

JB said...

Hi Stuart,

"This is about large corporations protecting what they see as their property." I couldn't agree with this sentiment more. Especially when it comes to issues like public performance. Imagine if Beethoven's works were not public domain, and students and artists could not perform the work on the level they are presently performed. Beethoven's bigger now than he ever was, thanks to the public domain and the wide variety of people performing his work. Aspiring artists benefit from a diverse and well-stocked public domain. It enriches the aesthetic experience and provides inspiration en masse.

Short run profits. That's what it boils down to. How depressing. --JB

Stuart said...

Thanks for that comment, JB. I think your point is well made. In my view, the protection of intellectual property is usually an obsession of corporations rather than individuals.

Stuart