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Dead Musicians Signing Media Rights Petitions 357

epeus writes "Following from the Gowers coverage and the Musicians' ad in the FT, Larry Lessig admits he was wrong about term extension: 'If you read the list, you'll see that at least some of these artists are apparently dead (e.g. Lonnie Donegan, died 4th November 2002; Freddie Garrity, died 20th May 2006). I take it the ability of these dead authors to sign a petition asking for their copyright terms to be extended can only mean that even after death, term extension continues to inspire. I'm not yet sure how. But I guess I should be a good sport about it, and just confess I was wrong. For if artists can sign petitions after they've died, then why can't they produce new recordings fifty year ago?'"
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Dead Musicians Signing Media Rights Petitions

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  • by ctid ( 449118 ) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @07:16AM (#17172746) Homepage
    Oh no! The dead have risen and they're voting for copyright extension

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 09, 2006 @07:18AM (#17172762)
    i wonder what the net worth of these 4500 "artists" are ?

    then compare it with the net worth of 4500 Wallmart shop employees or 4500 Ford car plant workers who wont be getting paid either for work they did 50 years ago

    perhaps the music industry needs a close audit to see where those 4500 poor, poor starving musicians are going wrong
    if you have nothing to hide as they say...
  • by macadamia_harold ( 947445 ) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @07:18AM (#17172764) Homepage
    I take it the ability of these dead authors to sign a petition asking for their copyright terms to be extended can only mean that even after death, term extension continues to inspire.

    I don't see why Lessig is so surprised. Not only can the dead sign petitions, but they can vote, too. America has lead the way in the legal frontier of corpse-rights and suffrage, at least as far back as the 1800s.
  • by russ1337 ( 938915 ) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @07:21AM (#17172780)
    They're using every means possible to ensure their copyright gets extended. If copyright is not extended it will have a huge negative effect on the record companies / British Phonographic Industry (BPI), RIAA groups and content distributors, beyond that of royalties paid.

    Content in the public domain waters down the argument for requiring ALL content to be 'protected'. If half of the worlds music was public domain, lobbyists would have a hard time persuading lawmakers to put restrictions on ALL devices. This has been evident with the RIAA continuously argue why DRM is required for ALL music to prevent copyright infringement. These arguments usually fail to recognize the existence of non-copyrighted music (Creative Commons, Public Domain etc), and certainly make no provision for it in their argument or 'industry drafted bills' (e.g DMCA). This results in systems like the Zune wi-fi sharing system which applies DRM when transferring songs, whether the media requires protection or not, and with total disregard for other licences such as 'copyleft' which may expressly forbid it.

    We've seen from the Napster and Gokster cases in the 'war on file sharing' argued that "file sharing is always infringement of somebody's copyright", and fails to recognize the legal uses of file sharing systems. Again, if half of the worlds music was public domain, the argument agaisnt services like Bit-torrent is significantly watered down. Services like Youtube and Google Video have already been targeted, and we've seen media companies desire to shutdown the service altogether. Although Youtube and Google video are exceptional in that they've been careful to prevent copyright infringement from the start, and the result has been for the media companies attempts to re-define infringement. (i.e teenagers lip-sinking etc). Again their aim is to prove the majority of content that is free is infringing copyright and the services providing it should be shut-down.

    We are seeing the music industry / BPI "pulling out all the stops" to prevent an extension of copyright. They're using artists that have done very very well out of record company who may 'win the hearts and minds of the people' (Cliff Richard), and now their padding their 'stats' with dead people. It is certain they are lobbying politicians as fast as they can.

    The BPI (and RIAA) have responsibilities "in the collection, administration and distribution of music licenses and royalties" which relies on a vast library of content being under their control. Music that is currently in their control placed in the public domain erodes their breadth of responsibility and will ultimately affect their cut of the royalties.

    This argument is not about the artists getting more money, it is about the BPI and RIAA retaining their value and ability to "fight the crime of music theft".

    They cannot fight the "crime" if half the time it is perfectly legal to copy and share.
  • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @07:25AM (#17172798) Homepage Journal
    Of course, I'm from Chicago. The dead regularly climb out of the ground to vote up here...must be something in the water...
  • by oedneil ( 871555 ) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @07:30AM (#17172840) Homepage
    Makes me wonder how 2pac or Biggie would feel about this. I guess we'll find out on their next albums!
  • by jlowery ( 47102 ) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @07:33AM (#17172850)
    ... called "Decomposing Composers".

    Although in this case I think they're recomposing composers.
  • by Lewisham ( 239493 ) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @07:44AM (#17172900)
    Instead of signing petitions, why don't they just release a couple new albums like 2Pac? It's totally paying for the henny and the hos in the afterlife.
  • Remember that corporations meet almost every criteria for being psychopaths [] that doesn't involve age or sexuality (Jokes about getting raped at the pump notwithstanding).

    Pathological lying, conning/manipulative, shameless, parasitic lifestyle, irresponsibility? I consider it extremely unlikely that they wouldn't know that a member was dead (seeing as he wouldn't be showing up for recording and all), and even then, so what? If the signatures were genuine, no dead person's name could possibly be on the list. Yet another in the media industry's endless stream of manipulative lies. Naturally, when called out, they will shamelessly deny any previous knowledge. Parasitic lifestyle? We hear every day how the Internet makes the recording industry obsolete. Irresponsible? Like forging dead people's signatures?

    Corporations are psychopaths. But they aren't psychopathic because they enjoy being evil - If they don't act like this, the shareholders can sue (If you don't [obviously wrong action], it's bad for profit = lawsuit). If this nonsense is to stop while it's still possible to get corporations back under control, the law needs to change. Seeing as it's 4am, I leave it to the rest of you to propose the changes.
  • by MythMoth ( 73648 ) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @08:13AM (#17173026) Homepage
    If this is an Advert in the UK Edition of the FT, then the appropriate action to take would be to complain to the Advertising Standards Authority. ASA rulings are usually considered newsworthy in a minor way, and would raise awareness of the issue.

  • by 3seas ( 184403 ) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @08:33AM (#17173120) Homepage Journal
    ...Cyber space virtual reality where you never really die and someone else really does own all your base.

    Intellectual property rights are man created and man enforced where they can reasonably be enforced.

    However, the value of the intellectual property only goes as far as the ability to share it, via licensing or some other method of "regulation" of the value exchange flow.

    You can have all the intellectual property in the world but to yourself it is value less, it is only upon sharing it that it becomes valuable or has value.

    With this in mind the apex of debate is regarding at what time does the IP rights constraints become to constraining to others on the path to human advancement that it falsely limits human advancement even effecting the author/inventor life and living environment?

    Maybe some see creative works of non-invention as something that doesn't apply to this but the fact is that such creative works being constrained of the past would have, for example, nearly eliminated all science fiction of today. Today all science fiction contains enough elements of works previously done that it would be virtuallyt impossible to write a decent story. The same applies to alot of music.

    Intellectual property right are intended to benefit the creator of it, but not to give them a permanet monopoly on it.

    As a human character, right and duty, we build upon and with the works of those before us. If we did not then we could not evolved our environment, society, technology, medicine, shelter, transportation etc.. We'd still be living in caves and hunting for food.

    Now what if technology could reach the rate of advancement that itself would provide solutions fast enough that we could live much longer, healthier, etc. And this would certainly effect any living "creator"

    This cannot happen with IP rights constraining such forward movement!

  • by tjcrowder ( 899845 ) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @08:36AM (#17173140) Homepage
    It wasn't their copyright term they were trying to extend...
  • by SharpFang ( 651121 ) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @08:58AM (#17173216) Homepage Journal
    Go Dead!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      ... and he'd be writing the petition, sending it out, chasing up other dead people and generally making a lot of beaurocratic noise.

      Good call, SharpFang.
  • by OeLeWaPpErKe ( 412765 ) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @09:06AM (#17173250) Homepage
    Dead people do NOT sign these petitions ... but they do have a strong tendency to die AFTER it was asked of them
  • by PyrotekNX ( 548525 ) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @09:10AM (#17173274)
    One of the biggest problems with the recording industry is that the artists sign over their copyright holdings permanently instead of leasing them. Right now the transfer of copyright is complete and permanent.

    The lease should end when the contract does. The artist or artists would then have the option to renew their contract and lease, sign a new contract / release indie, or release it into the public domain.

    With a lease, you can be assured that there isn't an abuse of the power that record labels have now. A simple law could make these current types of contracts obsolete and illegal. Artists should also be able to reference this law and get their copyrights returned to the rightful owner.

    This kind of thing is being done with the LOTR Trilogy and The Hobbit. The movie rights were leased to Miramax for a short period. If they do not finish the movies within that timeframe, they cannot release them.

    Lets face it, record labels themselves are an obsolete business model. There are many ways to do self promotion now and you don't need to include a 3rd party publisher. A simple website, some iTunes tracks and a live tour are you really need to promote yourself. All labels really do is publish little plastic discs. They don't need exclusive rights to your material to do that.
  • Err, I'm only in my second year of law school, so everyone should take this with a grain of salt. However, if the trustee of his estate is empowered with the right to endorse certain things on his behalf, my half informed judgment is that this isn't a problem. The endorsements you make are probably an asset that can be allocated to trustees upon certain executory conditions, the least problematic of which is endorsing an organization that legally represents your interests as an artist.
  • Who benefits? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mouthbeef ( 35097 ) <> on Saturday December 09, 2006 @11:18AM (#17173944) Homepage
    Do they really want us to believe that today's musicians will record more music if they get 95 years of copyright? Is there a musician (who doesn't write his own songs -- compositions get life ) for whom the deciding factor on recording a song is the infinitesimal chance that her song will be commercially viable after 50 years?

    The risk that a musician is so dispirited by only getting 50 years of copyright on the recordings of her work is wholly theoretical. No one can point to such a musician. That musician, btw, isn't tomorrow's artist -- it's all recording artists since the term of phonogram monopoly was set at 50 years. Every song recorded for for the 20th century was produced with that incentive (or less).

    However, there are two very real, non-theoretical groups of musicians for whom the existing term of 50 years is too long:

    * Samplers and remixers. This is a non-theoretical, concrete and visible group of working musicians. They are unable to incorporate other works from culture into theirs without paying -- and not just paying, either. It's nearly impossible for an artist outside of the label system to clear samples from the labels' catalogues. That's because the labels give preferential treatement to one another in a mutually assured destruction dynamic (if EMI doesn't license its samples to Sony, then Sony can refuse to license to EMI). The effect of this for samplers and remixers in the UK is that they have to either:

    1. Be criminals

    2. Not make art

    3. Sign up for the deal the labels offer, assign copyright in their works to the labels, and take the crummy "recoup"-based payment scheme the labels offer.

    Talk about creating a buyer's market for what musicians have to sell!

    * The other group of musicians harmed by the overlong term is those whose work is forgotten -- orphaned by society. In these cases, either the label still holds the copyright but won't reissue the musician's work (Universal's Decca warehouse in London holds the entire, unreleased catalogue of roots music, back to steel cylinders, and Universal hasn't even catalogued that collection, let alone made plans to re-release it); or no one knows who hold the copyright, because the deal was done so long ago.

    At a recent Future of Music conference, Alanis Morrisette's attorney said that in his research, over 80% of all music recorded is not in the stream of commerce. In Eldred v Ashcroft, the US Supreme Court fount that *ninety eight percent* of all copyrighted works are "orphans".

    For these musicians, alive or dead, there is a fate worse than penury: obscurity. Their works -- the art they cherished and midwifed -- have been eliminated from the historical record. We have piled their recordings up in a huge bonfire and burned them in slow motion.

    Finally, there's another non-hypothetical, real, visible group of artists for whom term extension is directly harmful: composers.

    People who write songs get a much longer term of copyright than those who perform them. When Elvis goes into the public domain and his records are re-issued, the black songwriters whose work he performed *still* get paid by the reissuers. Right now, these composers are hostage to Elvis's label: if they don't re-release, the composers don't get a cheque. But the elimination of the majors from the equation makes it possible for a much more diverse population of entrepreneurs to arrange for such a re-release.

    It's pure sophistry to wring your hands about some theoretical economic situation that will arise for musicians in 2056 when their present-day copyrights expire; that would be fine if there weren't great groups of concrete, present-day musicians crying out to have this happen.

    The holders of today's 50 year copyrights fall into three groups:

    * Holders of commercially non-viable copyrights (almost all of them fall into this category) -- this group receives direct harm from term extension

    * Giant corporations that non-negotiably forced their artists to assign all copyright t
  • by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @01:48PM (#17175200)
    Were these musicians hiding out in Millyways perhaps?
  • by epeus ( 84683 ) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @02:18PM (#17175628) Homepage Journal

    The Open Rights Group [] is running a Release The Music [] campaign, with a petition against term extension that you can sign []. There's also one asking for the right to privately copy CDs to iPods. []

    Are Slashdot readers as good at signing petitions as dead musicians?

    I'm not sure why the Slashdot editors trimmed the ORG petition off my original submission - do they prefer whinging to doing something politically influential?

  • Ask The Live Ones (Score:4, Interesting)

    by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @03:21PM (#17176492) Homepage
    Has anyone checked with the living musicians whose names appear in the ad to determine if all of them know that they signed it?
  • IP doesn't exist (Score:5, Insightful)

    by npsimons ( 32752 ) on Saturday December 09, 2006 @06:48PM (#17178572) Homepage Journal

    I've seen a lot of comments arguing about "intellectual property" and I just want to straighten something out right now: there is no such thing as "intellectual property". Ideas and property are nothing alike; ideas can be copied infinitely at no cost. Property cannot be copied infinitely at no cost. No one can own an idea.

    The state (of the people, by the people and for the people) may temporarily grant someone exclusive _rights_ to the copying or use of an idea, but this is nothing like property rights. Property rights are in place because multiple people can't use a piece of property at the same time. Copyrights (and patents) are in place to encourage the advancement of new and useful ideas and art (go ahead, look it up, it's in the constitution).

    Don't believe me? Go ask a lawyer about so-called "intellectual property". The first thing she will do is ask you "are you talking about copyrights, patents or trademarks?". You'll notice that none of those has anything to do with property. Don't use the phrase "intellectual property"; it's deceitful language used by manipulative people to try to get you into the frame of mind of treating ideas as property.

Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"