[Foundation-l] ASCAP comes out against "copyleft"

Ray Saintonge saintonge at telus.net
Mon Jun 28 23:45:42 UTC 2010

Andre Engels wrote:
> On Sat, Jun 26, 2010 at 12:17 PM,  <WJhonson at aol.com> wrote:
>> When I go to YouTube, the number of videos which are some bad amateur
>> singer trying to sing some good song far outweigh the number of original videos
>> of that song/group.  The amount of free content in music, in general is
>> rapidly approaching or perhaps past par with all professional music ever created
>> to this day.
> A video of an amateur singer trying to sing a song is also a copyright
> violation - they are publishing the song, and do not own the copyright
> on either text or melody. They probably won't be prosecuted over it,
> but legally they are violating copyright.

It *is* a violation, and that is a part of the problem.  The bloody 
awful YouTube singer does, however, receive performance copyrights for 
what he does.  Copyright by default means that anything, however bad or 
trivial, has copyrights; this includes the weekly flyer from your local 
supermarket. For all of the faults of US copyright law there was much 
positive to be said about the former registration and renewal system.

> Copyright laws were mostly created in a time when situations were
> different. There used to be a group of content creators, and a general
> public. Copyright was mostly a right from one content creator to
> another - you should not publish the book, song, whatever that I own
> the copyright on. The public at large did not have the means to
> publish, so copyright laws might as well not apply to them. What they
> could do was so inconsequential (write over a chapter of a book, sing
> a song in presence of their coworkers) that nobody minded exceptions
> being made for them.
I see it as more between content father creators and filial publishers 
than between content creators alone. Since the general public's holy 
ghost had no dog in the fight it had no part in the eventual 
agreements.  Copyright was a social contract between creators and 
publishers, and that still underlies its philosophy in common law 
countries.  Leave it to the  French to fuck up the balance by 
associating it with the rights of man and moral rights!

Now the public does have an interest in the fight, but mostly without 
any interest in making money out of it. That calls for a review of what 
copyright is all about from the ground up. That's a far more substantial 
discussion than the enforcement discussions that the publishers would 
prefer.  It's the publishers, not the creators, that stand to lose the 
most; they have every reason to see the holy ghost kicked out of the 

> In the last few decades this changed. Automatic copying became cheaper
> and simpler with photocopiers, tape recorders, video recorders
> becoming mass products. Still, their impact was relatively minor.
> Although copyright industry saw these things as very problematic, they
> were mostly used to make single or few copies. Few people would make
> hundreds of copies of a single work to send them out. Fewer still did
> so for money. Many more people had the ability to become content
> publishers, but most of them did not use it.
> Then came the internet, enabling every single one of us to make our
> work available on an unprecedented scale. And with that the borderline
> between public and content publishers really came down. And with that,
> copyright became applied to situations totally different from the ones
> for which it was created. It used to be clear that if you put a poem
> in a book that sold in the shops, part of the proceedings should go to
> the poet. It used to be clear that nobody had anything to do with it
> if you put that same poem in your diary. But now, people are making
> their diaries (blogs) available for everyone, without getting any kind
> of compensation for the effort. Large amounts of non-professional,
> non-commercial publishing to potentially huge audiences is a situation
> that copyright laws did not foresee. Unfortunately, instead of
> realizing that the effect of copyright laws, intended to protect the
> rights of one commercial publisher against another are draconian when
> applied to such a different situation, where the average citizen is
> the one being affected, the main reaction seems to be to make the laws
> even stricter.
In theory at least, the laws were there primarily to protect the 
creators, not the publishers.  Enforcement of copyright law should 
primarily be the responsibility of the owner of the right, not of the 
state except in the case of egregious and wilful violation where a 
higher burden of proof would also prevail.  The other point is that 
damages should need to be proven with evidence, and should in no way 
depend on speculative analysis about what the public might want to see 
or hear.  It serves no-one (except lawyers) when the costs of legal 
actions far exceed actual damages.


More information about the wikimedia-l mailing list