Sunday, January 10, 2010

[Rant On Copyrights.]

They're destructive. Copyrights are effectively a destructive medium. In a perfect society, copyrights would work only to protect the unfair use of another person's intellectual property.They would keep person 'A' from wrongfully claiming the credit for the work of person 'B'. Unfortunately, this is not how copyrights work. We have all seen in recent years of the extremes to which people will go to protect their copyrighted material.
In Catholic America, they are used to limit the use and distribution of the very divine Liturgy itself.
Thanks to copyright, only the Big Guys with lots of money and legal protection are able to produce mass settings and liturgical music. ICEL copyrighted the missal, the breviary, and the bible, and anyone wishing to set these texts to music must pay ICEL's royalties and abide by their rules.
What if you're like me and you can't afford that?
Too bad. You should belong to a corporation supported* by your Bishop's Conference.
Said Corporation routinely publishes music of dubious orthodoxy and orthopraxy, and also demands royalties of you for including your music in their collections. These sort of laws restrict the publishing of sacred music only to the fat cats who can afford it, and creates a system where Catholics will hear and be able to use only the same music year after year after year.
No one benefits from this except the publishers.

The same applies to just about everything.
Bands are begining to copyright their music by the measure, so God forbid that you come up with a rift based on something you heard on a CD. You can play it, but don't record it any way.You'll be sued, and you'll possibly lose your song. So the musician and his band are at a disadvantage.
Some popular authors are restricting their works so that any derivitive work may not be published without their consent and the appropriate fee. Not even so much as quoting, but even simply referencing the work requires permission first, and cash later.
Let's say you're an artist, and you want to use a photograph you found on a website as a model for a painting or sculpture. Well, that's all fine and good, but you can't publish or sell your work.
Because it's a derivitive work, and those are unacceptable, even to so-called royalty free stock photo sites. So the artist and the appreciator of art are at a disadvantage.

Despite the claims, these restrictive regulations do not protect the integrity of the texts. Indeed, the most over-used mass setting in the U.S. has a plethora of removed, substituted, and added words, made in order to get around ICEL's restrictions. Rather than prevent the bastardisation of texts, retsrictive copyright policies encourgae them. Why go through the trouble of of finding a publisher, getting permission, and paying royalties over, and over, and over again in a book where you quote an author, when you can just re-word or re-write the entire text and quote freely without the trouble? Hence, most psalm settings here do not use the official text, rather, the composers amended the texts themselves (and then copyrighted them) so that the hassle of copyrights could be avoided.

In the effort to protect one's own intellectual property, the rights of others to the use of that which they legally own is often infringed on. OCP states that the use of their musical material is legal only for the calendar year. After that, they must be destroyed. Any and all use of the materials after that date is illegal, and punishable by law. A book is bought for by you, and you may not use it as long as you would like. You are the legal owner, but thanks to copyrights, you get no say in how you may use it.

Copyrighters even go so far as to limit the use of materials which they did not write. The company that publishes the sheet music that I often use has copyrighted the typeface of the notes and staves, as well as the page numbers and titles. So while they cannot claim rights to the music. (Because it was written by Bach,Buxtehude, Vierne and Dupre:Composers dead for centuries) They find another way to claim rights to the notes. Thus, it is not legal to scan and distribute the music of these composers because other people have found a way to claim the rights to the music. So music students and those unable to afford sheet music are at a disadvantage.

And this doe'snt apply only to music. It seems that people often are finding any way to copyright otherwise public domain material. Hence, books written long ago have minor corrections made, and are newly copyrighted. Poems and essays written before the advent of copyright laws are copyrighted, because a period is put where there used to be none, and a semi-colon is replaced with a colon.

Those who make money from copyrights certainly do benefit, but most others do not. The free spread of ideas is prevented, artistic creativity hampered, education made imposible or done without license, all in the name of Intellectual Property.

[/rant on copyrights.]

1 comment:

Michael said...

I love your country! :-D

Things are bad here where copyright is concerned but nowhere near as mad as what I've heard of where you are, especially with regards to Starbucks suing every coffee shop that uses any of the letters s, t, a, r, b, u, c, or k in its name, as well as monasteries. They'd be laughed out of court if they tried that here. We have all sorts of independent fried chicken take-aways with red and white logos and decor, called various names, including Krispy Fried Chicken and Krunchy Fried Chicken. We have Dominic's Pizza and numerous other rip-off names. Clothing manufacturer "Urban Spirit" at one time released a line of clothing bearing a logo which was an abbreviation of "Urban Spirit United Kingdom", clearly being a rip-off of the French Connection idea. I don't recall there being any fuss over it. I even bought the clothes! It's a laugh and nobody takes it too seriously.

Printed material is another matter, especially music, and yes, I too have heard of the rights to the typesetting of music being exercised even if the music itself is in the public domain. Fortunately, most Orthodox composers, writers, and iconographers I have encountered so far have been very generous with their work and not exercised copyright, some only requiring an acknowledgement and most not even that. I know that the SGOIS believes it to be morally reprehensible to copyright Christian material, and I'm not sure I disagree. The ICEL ought to be ashamed of themselves.