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View Full Version : The RIAA: Defenders of copyright -- except when they're not!



thegooseking
24-08-2011, 02:01 AM
I figure copyright's something that comes up fairly often on this site, so here's a tale from the music industry.

The RIAA have taken great pains to position themselves on the moral high ground, defending copyright law and pretending to make sure the artist gets compensated for their work.

Copyright protection in US law apparently has something called the "termination rights clause". What this means is that, for any work created after 1978, an artist has the right to claim sole ownership of the rights 35 years after its publication. This, of course, means that the first such works to become eligible for this will do so in 2013.

So what does the RIAA have to say about this? Will they be protecting the artists' rights as they've claimed to do all along? Will they continue to defend copyright law as assiduously as when they've been going after pirates?

Will they buggery.

According to the RIAA, most music artists' relationship with publishers is one of "work for hire" which means that the termination rights clause "doesn't apply". They're essentially going to fight to prevent artists from regaining ownership of their work as is apparently (though not, it has to be said, unambiguously) their right by law.

Which rather casts aspersions on the "compensation of artists" angle they used to go after pirates, as well as their strong defence of copyright protection laws. I can sort of understand the RIAA's motivations: after all, giving rights back to the individuals is taking them out of the monolithic "the industry" that the RIAA represents, which is especially dangerous in an age where the monolithic "the industry" is becoming less and less necessary to support artists. But that doesn't really make it any less slimy or hypocritical.

Of course, suggesting that the RIAA might be a little bit evil is nothing new. What's most surprising about this, to be honest, is how brazen they're being about it.

http://www.myce.com/news/riaa-to-fight-musicians-over-copyright-termination-rights-on-recordings-50450/

Lukasz
24-08-2011, 02:21 AM
they also own money to the artists as they never asked for their permission to use their songs:
http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2009/12/artists-lawsuit-major-record-labels-are-the-real-pirates.ars

their time is over and they are fighting with all their might to survive as long as possible

Nalano
24-08-2011, 02:36 AM
Yes. This is why you should never, ever, enter into a contract where the rights to your creative work is owned by somebody not you.

Especially in this day and age where self-publishing is ridiculously cheap.

TillEulenspiegel
24-08-2011, 03:10 AM
According to the RIAA, most music artists' relationship with publishers is one of "work for hire" which means that the termination rights clause "doesn't apply".
Unfortunately, this may be entirely true.


Yes. This is why you should never, ever, enter into a contract where the rights to your creative work is owned by somebody not you.
Yep. It's almost always a terrible deal. By all means, grant temporary exclusive licenses to publishers in exchange for promotion, but never relinquish your rights to the song or the recording.

High-quality recording is dirt cheap too; to start with, a Studio Projects B1 condenser mic is $120, and sounds 98% as good as mics 10x the price. I built a great apartment bedroom recording studio for well under $1000 in hardware and software. I'm purely a hobbyist, but if I had any actual musical talent, the recordings would be good enough to mix, master, and release.

This speech by Courtney Love is a classic:
http://www.salon.com/technology/feature/2000/06/14/love

Rii
24-08-2011, 04:01 AM
Yep, the anti-piracy (aka anti-free association) movement has never been about right and wrong, but about power and all the influence that money can buy. The law and ethics are things corporations will adhere to and espouse when it is convenient and to their benefit to do so, and ignore when it isn't. It's the nature of the beast.

Nalano
24-08-2011, 04:23 AM
High-quality recording is dirt cheap too; to start with, a Studio Projects B1 condenser mic is $120, and sounds 98% as good as mics 10x the price. I built a great apartment bedroom recording studio for well under $1000 in hardware and software. I'm purely a hobbyist, but if I had any actual musical talent, the recordings would be good enough to mix, master, and release.

I got two Shure SM58s and two SM57s hooked up to a preamp that's attached to this computer. Made my money back from the investment doing low-cost recording for local folks.

Skalpadda
24-08-2011, 04:33 AM
It's not exactly news that these organisations are in the business of protecting monetary assets rather than protecting and encouraging art and the people who create it. They are right about most "artists" being work for hire, though that doesn't make the RIAA any less worthy of loathing.

icupnimpn2
24-08-2011, 11:52 AM
Work for hire is an important concept. Imagine if the designer of a corporate logo or the author of a company's mission statement or jingle could claim sole ownership. Or the designer of a model of car, etc. Work for hire doesn't even require attribution under most circumstances.

When a record label does a deal for an album, they're essentially commissioning work, and the product belongs to them. This is different from most book deals where the author retains the rights to their work and just licenses it for first and later publication in print, magazine, online, and in various countries.

U.S. Copyright Office FAQ (http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-definitions.html)

What is a work made for hire?
Although the general rule is that the person who creates the work is its author, there is an exception to that principle; the exception is a work made for hire, which is a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment; or a work specially ordered or commissioned in certain specified circumstances. When a work qualifies as a work made for hire, the employer, or commissioning party, is considered to be the author. See Circular 9, Work-Made-For-Hire Under the 1976 Copyright Act.

Tei
24-08-2011, 12:19 PM
I find this fun:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2011/jul/27/star-wars-helmet-court-case

This Andrew Ainsworth dude can sell Star Wars helmets, and he is not Lucas.

I know this is UK, and not USA.

thegooseking
24-08-2011, 01:40 PM
I don't think being under contract is enough to qualify as work-for-hire. It really depends whether musicians are seen as employees of the label or as independent contractors. A commission is not always work-for-hire. If an independent contractor is commissioned to provide work, it is considered "work-for-hire" only if all of the conditions are met:-


The work is a contribution to a collective work, a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, a translation, a supplementary work, a compilation, an instructional text, a test, answer material for a test, or an atlas.
The work is specially ordered or commissioned.
There is a written agreement between the parties specifying that the work is a work made for hire.

Since songs and albums (except soundtracks and a few other marginal cases) do not fall into the first category, it can only be considered work-for-hire if the artist is an employee of the label, and not an independent contractor.

The termination rights clause exists to recognise an artist's weak bargaining position when making a contract in the first place. I think there's a reasonable argument about what the right of termination is for, if not for the case of musicians producing work.

Skalpadda
24-08-2011, 02:26 PM
Since songs and albums (except soundtracks and a few other marginal cases) do not fall into the first category, it can only be considered work-for-hire if the artist is an employee of the label, and not an independent contractor.


It is tricky to define these sorts of things for music though, and who ends up credited with writing a piece of music varies enormously. Especially in popular music you often end up with a "songwriter" (loathe the word) making the basics of a song and producers, technicians, engineers, artists and musicians making anything from arrangements to alterations, rewrites, lyrics and so on, with the recording "artist" usually only being the brand name to stick on the CD. A hired studio musician can for example have an enormous effect on whether a piece of music is successful or not (not just financially successful) but it's rare that you see them sharing the rights to the piece or the recording of it.

In many cases, and often in the cases that bring in big money which is what the RIAA are most interested in, composers, producers and musicians are simply contracted to make a certain kind of album and it's nothing more than a job, just as a level designer or programmer for a computer game is just doing a job with the studio and publisher hiring them being the ones who retain the rights.

Nalano
24-08-2011, 02:38 PM
Most composers and artists who write their own music tend to be members of composer unions like ASCAP and BMI, who actually go through the trouble of asserting their rights to the reproduction of the music. Saying the guy who did the levels on your recorded work deserves as much credit as you is, however, insane.

Skalpadda
24-08-2011, 02:47 PM
Saying the guy who did the levels on your recorded work deserves as much credit as you is, however, insane.

That's not what I'm talking about at all, I was referring to creative rather than just technical input. We are increasingly getting to a point in music production where the line between the two is very blurry though, with sounds being just as important on their own as the arrangements of sounds.

Nalano
24-08-2011, 03:07 PM
That's not what I'm talking about at all, I was referring to creative rather than just technical input. We are increasingly getting to a point in music production where the line between the two is very blurry though, with sounds being just as important on their own as the arrangements of sounds.

You used the word 'technician,' which implies to me the guy who presses the record button and works the levels. If you were referring to the guy who samples and creates mixes, you're thinking DJ, and he's already in a legal gray area because of the sampling. If you're talking arrangers and lyricists, they already have rights. When you're talking studio musicians - actual employees - then they're actual employees, and while we should make it so they're more than just that, as of this moment they're just that.

But mostly, all of those together you're really talking a manufactured "artist," who is already pretty much the brainchild of a label and I really don't have much to say about them at all, considering how small a portion of the artist population they are.

Skalpadda
24-08-2011, 03:23 PM
Nope, I'm saying that your job description doesn't necessarily reflect your creative role on a project and the music being written and/or recorded.

A studio technician is technically the guy who handles the equipment, but it's not at all uncommon for them to also do some of the arrangement and have a large creative input on the overall sound of a recording (and a lot of the writing process is being done in the studio in many cases these days).

Nalano
24-08-2011, 04:34 PM
A studio technician is technically the guy who handles the equipment, but it's not at all uncommon for them to also do some of the arrangement and have a large creative input on the overall sound of a recording (and a lot of the writing process is being done in the studio in many cases these days).

Sounds like it's up to the technician to make a deal with the musician for proper crediting.

Skalpadda
25-08-2011, 01:16 AM
That's a fair point although musicians are rarely the ones deciding which way the money is split at the end of the day. Disregarding job titles and audio technicians in their various forms the point was that musical composition and audio production are incredibly fractured things, most people involved are just hired to do a job, and I'm not about to be super sympathetic with the people who happened to end up with their names attached to the work at the end.

On another note, I'm having scones and they make me happy. Money doesn't make you happy but awesome delicious scones do. Make some scones everyone, and you'll be happier :)