America is no stranger to internal conflict. We’ve had one doozey of an election cycle, two highly polarized political parties, and several schools of thought which constantly seem at war with each other. While some of these issues lend our people to Not-In-My-Backyard syndrome, we as musicians, creators, and art lovers have always had something to say. Always ones to brand ourselves, we take different stances and go to war with each other, all for the sake of making our own voices heard and getting our ideals out into the world.
Now, we, as creators, have a fight of our own right at our front door over something that has been an integral part of the music business since its creation: copyright.
Last month, new Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden thought it was best to dismiss Maria Pallante from her position as head of the US Copyright office, moving her to a new role of senior adviser; Pallante shortly thereafter resigned from her position. Pallante has been viewed as a supporter of creative communities and as exercising fair policy when dealing with creators and technology companies. Her plans to update copyright law were viewed as visionary, desiring to update copyright law for the twenty-first century, protecting artists and guaranteeing a revenue stream through intellectual property.
As creators mourn the loss of the champion they saw in Pallante, creators have also been taking Carla Hayden to task. Hayden is described to be more in favor of big technology than in favor of creators and their needs. Having worked for Google-run companies, creators see her as a threat, based on her advocacy of free and unrestricted content. Because free and unrestricted content completely and totally undermines and violates copyright law, Hayden is also earning a reputation for being anti-copyright.
In the modern industry, people are viewing the issue of copyright mainly through a monetary lens. It is possible to give your recorded and musical content away for free and still make a pretty penny from merchandise and touring, but you cannot have these things without first obtaining intellectual property.
In this respect, I am completely and totally in favor of protecting, amending, and sometimes overhauling and reconstructing copyright law. I’m well aware that the songs I write while locked away in a practice room may never see the light of day, may never earn me a single cent. However, with copyright law, my intellectual property stays my intellectual property. Through copyrights, I get to keep the credit for the hard work I do as a creator. From copyright, it’s easier to license and get recognition for the content I create, instead of letting just anyone pass it off as their own.
I’m well aware that, even within the community of creators, that there are some differing viewpoints. Not everybody wants their content restricted. Not everyone thinks that their revenue streams should be mainly composed of merchandise sales. We come from different camps ourselves, almost as polar as the American political sphere. But, unlike our nation, we are definite and united by one common cause: to create and display art for the world to see. And right now, this whole issue of copyright is really throwing everything in the direction of limbo.
Everyone in the US is currently obsessed with some kind of rights. Why haven’t creators taken a stand for our own rights? We are in the middle of a perfect storm where we could easily open up the floor and get our voices and our needs heard by the legislators. We may not receive much, if any support, from the new president-elect, but, if we as a nation are willing to make decisions just based on a movement, imagine how powerful and influential a nation of artists could be.
Usually, I would cap off by talking about implications of our topic, today, the future of the music business is right here in out hands. It’s time for us as creators to unite and make a change in copyright law. As much as people were being mobilized to go vote in this election cycle, it’s time for us as creators to mobilize each other to create change on capitol hill. Instead of just talking about how our intellectual property is undervalued or underrepresented, why don’t we get up and do something about it? In the end, we’re never going to see change or improvements until the copyright law itself changes.
If you’d like to read the article that prompted this post, click here.
Once again, this has been the view from 214.