Andrew Dubber, New Music Strategies blogger, has a lot of folks riled up about copyright— including me. I’d be remiss if I didn’t send some readers his way; the conversation has been fantastically interesting. His idea? Make copyright an opt-in process, with a 5-year timeout, followed by the option to renew. Dubber hopes the renewal process will lead to a greater percentage of works entering the public domain… I just think its going to result in another enormous bureaucratic clusterfuck mis-managing artists’ rights.
In truth, I’m still not exactly certain where I stand with copyright. It seems to me that copyright and art don’t really go together all that well anyway– art and commerce ultimately have very different goals. If I was a businessman, I could definitely understand the value in hoarding everything of any possible use forever. As an artist, I’ve often given things away for free, or at least encouraged their dissemination. Can these be reconciled?
The fear underlying most copyright decisions (or so it seems to me) is that if a big-name artist’s work wasn’t protected, it could be sold out from under their noses by unscrupulous businessmen, de-valuing their work by making it more freely and cheaply available. But hey, isn’t this already happening? As I type this, a quick torrent search reveals more than one Radiohead discography available right now. One has 33 separate albums, in lossless format, and even features scans of some booklets and liner notes!
Yet Radiohead carries on. I’ve yet to see Johnny Greenwood flipping burgers.
Granted, they might have made a lot of their money before such widespread filesharing came into practice. What about newer artists? Honestly, I have no idea. In some ways, I’m just sort of waiting to see how it plays out. My hope is that the ubiquitous availability of any sort of information, at any time, will de-value ownership itself. I know that I have downloaded songs just to avoid the walk downstairs to retrieve the actual record. I’ve downloaded albums I already own to more easily make a copy for my daughter– the de-valuation of ownership is underway.