The title of this post may not make a lot of sense at first but hopefully it will once you’ve seen the video below. Regular readers will know I try to keep the blog on topic most of the time, in as much as I don’t ramble on about things outside of technology and open source much. However, one area which does get me going is politics and every so often a subject comes along that compels me to write something. Copyright and more specifically the misuse of it by certain parties is one such subject. The accompanying video is a speech given to the European Parliament by Becky Hogge on behalf of the Open Rights Group. You may have noticed the little ORG badge here on my blog, it’s just to the right there see? No, scroll down a bit… yeah that’s it. The reason for this is because I support the Open Rights Group and their political work in the UK. At the moment there’s a proposal to extend the copyright term on sound recordings from 50 to 95 years inside the EU. This is promoted by industry lobbyists as helping the poor little artists and nobody wants to hurt the artists do they? Look at the them they’re so cuddly, aw.
The simple fact is that this story is complete bullshit, I’m sorry to swear but it is. I’m an artist myself and I find it repulsive, the RIAA and the rest of their cronies do not speak for me and they certainly don’t give a damn about artists or culture. They never have and they never will. Artists and art itself are treated with contempt by the 4 major record labels who manipulate the global music industry. They seem to see artists merely as battery chickens with tattoos and funny hair cuts, only there to be exploited and discarded. They are antiquated and unwilling to adapt to the world we now live in, a world where the Internet and high speed data sharing exist. I’m sure they’d like to get in a time machine and take us all back to the golden days of the pre-war era where they controlled the production (and more importantly reproduction) of all music via vinyl discs. In this world the only way for an artist to get their music to an audience was to be completely subservient in exchange for the chance to access rare and expensive recording equipment, all this just to commit their masterpieces to record. That world doesn’t exist any more and no matter how much the recording industry pines for it, it’s not coming back. These days the proliferation of affordable recording equipment and computer technology have taken the power out of their hands and given it back to the people. I can now pick up my guitar and stream a performance to the entire world via the web in the same time it takes me to brush my teeth or heat up a microwave dinner. We don’t need the middle man anymore and they know this, that’s why they’re scared.
This may sound like the words of a man who’s just bitter at not being an Internationally known artist with a big recording contract but I honestly don’t care about any of that. I think the days of sending off demo tapes in the hope that some recording industry executive will offer you the chance to sign your life away are gone. Young artists should be engaging directly with their audiences and embracing tools like the Internet not fighting them. The opportunities have never been so great. I’ve seen this myself through podcasting, nobody would have given me a radio show, certainly non of these traditional media guardians. Yet still I have been able to communicate with people all over the world with just a computer and a microphone. How amazing is that? Think about the power this gives us, I have to pinch myself each day. The only barrier now is talent and whether someone out there really wants to listen to what you produce. This is the ultimate in free speech and democracy. Does it mean all the music on the Internet will be good? No of course it doesn’t but I would argue that not all of the music on the shelves of your local record shop is good either. Why let some guy in a suit choose what you should get to hear?
I believe that artists should be fairly paid for their work, their creativity and be able to make a living out of it but I also believe this is possible in the new connected world. Copyright has a place and it’s one possible tool but nothing more than that. I believe in Creative Commons licensing. The sad truth is that most bands only make real money out of live shows anyway, they don’t see much of that £10 you hand over at HMV. A few pence if they’re lucky. We all want to support artists but I’m much happier to buy a CD off a band’s own website and give them the money directly than give £9.50 to a record company and 50p to the band. The recording industry is misrepresenting the current situation and how this copyright extension would affect artists. They are misleading our politicians and trying to make fools out of us all. Don’t let them do that, please! I’m glad good folk like of the Open Rights Group are out there trying to bring some balance to a story we usually only see one side of in the mainstream media outlets. Many of whom are owned by the same corporations as the 4 recording giants. I’ve rambled on enough and I will leave you to watch the video in peace now. Becky puts these arguments a lot better than I ever could. All I ask is that you think about the issue. Please visit http://www.soundcopyright.eu/ Thank you for reading this 🙂
Edit: – Thanks to Becky for her comment on this post, if you’d like to write to your MEPs and tell them how you feel about this issue I urge you to do so. Please check this site for details, it’s really easy – http://www.writetothem.com/