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Music Entertainment

Music Copyright War Looming 243

Posted by Soulskill
from the your-uppance-will-come dept.
quarterbuck writes with this excerpt from the NY Times: "When copyright law was revised in the mid-1970s, musicians, like creators of other works of art, were granted 'termination rights,' which allow them to regain control of their work after 35 years, so long as they apply at least two years in advance. Recordings from 1978 are the first to fall under the purview of the law, but in a matter of months, hits from 1979, like 'The Long Run' by the Eagles and 'Bad Girls' by Donna Summer, will be in the same situation. ... 'We believe the termination right doesn’t apply to most sound recordings,' said Steven Marks, general counsel for the Recording Industry Association of America, a lobbying group in Washington that represents the interests of record labels. As the record companies see it, the master recordings belong to them in perpetuity, rather than to the artists who wrote and recorded the songs, because, the labels argue, the records are 'works for hire,' compilations created not by independent performers but by musicians who are, in essence, their employees."
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Music Copyright War Looming

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  • by zget (2395308)
    Unless the artists self-financed it and didn't make contracts with record labels, it basically is work for hire.

    Lets take game series as examples - even if your studio created the game and the franchise, the IP rights to the name, characters etc belong to the publisher as they financed it and that was the deal made with the studio. Unless they make a deal with the publisher, they also cannot just leave and continue using that same name under another publisher. On the other hand, the publisher has the righ
    • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Monday August 15, 2011 @04:05PM (#37098552)
      I think it all depends on how the contracts with the bands/musicians were worded. If they don't read as "works for hire" contracts, or the record companies only have distribution deals, then the RIAA bastards may be out of luck.
      • by Zeinfeld (263942) on Monday August 15, 2011 @04:13PM (#37098662) Homepage
        The typical recording contract of that era was expressly designed to avoid being categorized as 'work for hire' as it would mean a shorter copyright term. The recording contracts were also designed to bilk the artists out of their royalties by requiring them to bear a very long list of costs. Work for hire has a very specific meaning in copyright law. The labels can't redefine the meaning retrospectively. Or at least they can't unless they can bribe Congress to do it for them.
        • by The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) on Monday August 15, 2011 @04:24PM (#37098816)

          The labels can't redefine the meaning retrospectively. Or at least they can't unless they can bribe Congress to do it for them.

          Oh, OK, so they can do it then.

          • by Moryath (553296)

            No kidding. How long till the bags of money start flowing into congressional hands quietly, again?

            This is the Mickey Mouse Copyright Extension Act all over again.

            • No kidding. How long till the bags of money start flowing into congressional hands quietly, again?

              This is the Mickey Mouse Copyright Extension Act all over again.

              Well of course congress must help the poor recording industry. If they don't do this how will the RIAA be able to pay congress... I mean donate to their campaign fund... I mean afford to protect the artists. Yeah, that's it. They must have this so that they can afford to protect artists. And by extension the economy and the American way of life. In fact doing this is the patriotic duty of congress. ;-)

            • No kidding. How long till the bags of money start flowing into congressional hands quietly, again?

              This is the Mickey Mouse Copyright Extension Act all over again.

              Does that imply the money ever stopped? The only difference is now they don't have to tell you it's them slipping singles into Harry Reid's halter top. Money is speech after all. But it's silent speech. Like carbon monoxide.

              • Harry Reid's halter top

                You sir (or madam) have thoroughly grossed me out.

                Now I have to go Clorox my mind.

        • even if they get there way in Congress the IRS will be on there ass over the taxes due for work for hire jobs.

        • Warning I'm not a lawyer. Ex post facto laws are expressly forbidden by the United States Constitution. They can't change the law retroactivly in a way that takes property from one group and gives it to another. With copyright extentions they get around it because the public domain isn't a person with rights.
          • Warning I'm not a lawyer. Ex post facto laws are expressly forbidden by the United States Constitution. They can't change the law retroactivly in a way that takes property from one group and gives it to another. With copyright extentions they get around it because the public domain isn't a person with rights.

            You think that's air you're breathing?

            The labels, like any of the other corrupt extortion industries, will just up the amount of money to the gooberment and/or threaten anybody else they need to until the law is removed, changed, or side-stepped.

        • by icebike (68054)

          If they now claim these artists were employees all along can you imagine the back taxes the labels would owe for Fica, UI, etc.

          Seems like an ill thought out strategy to me.

      • by rekoil (168689) on Monday August 15, 2011 @09:57PM (#37102112)

        "Work For Hire" provisions are unenforceable in recording contracts because US copyright law is rather specific about what can be considered a work for hire - and sound recordings are not on the list. It was briefly added [wikipedia.org] in 1999 but was removed a year later.

    • by sesshomaru (173381) on Monday August 15, 2011 @04:07PM (#37098570) Journal

      "Not only have recording artists traditionally paid for the making of their records themselves, with advances from the record companies that are then charged against royalties, they are also exempted from both the obligations and benefits an employee typically expects. "

      In other words, the recording industry, when it is harmful to them, says, "They are independent artists" including loaning them money to make a recording that they then have to repay. However, when it's in their interest for the artists to be employees, they say, "Hey, it's work for hire, we own it."

      This is why the people who make up the recording industry are thought to be the loveliest people on Earth.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Rhywden (1940872)
        Fun part is that in Germany, such an argument would bring immediate retribution by the state - since, if they're actually employees, the companies have to copay for such things like pensions or health insurance.
        Thus they'd leverage huge fines against the companies making that argument since we all know that musicians rarely see a significant dime out of their contracts - which is the reason why they're doing tours where they also sell t-shirts to make money.
        • by AlamedaStone (114462) on Monday August 15, 2011 @05:27PM (#37099730)

          Fun part is that in Germany, such an argument would bring immediate retribution by the state - since, if they're actually employees, the companies have to copay for such things like pensions or health insurance.

          Thus they'd leverage huge fines against the companies making that argument since we all know that musicians rarely see a significant dime out of their contracts - which is the reason why they're doing tours where they also sell t-shirts to make money.

          You Germans are so backwards. Here in America, it is every citizen's right not to have a pension or healthcare.

    • Except the music studios typically DON'T finance it. From pretty much everything I've every read, they usually give the artist an advance to cover costs and then recoup that money from the sales. That's one of the many reason a lot of artists hardly see any money come their way from record sales.

      • by elrous0 (869638) *

        The studios also learned a neat trick a long time ago. You dazzle your young artists with big houses and lots of bling (most, if not all of it, owned by the studio of course) that they get to "keep" just as long as they're still making you money. When they burn out, you just kick them to the curb and pass on the mansion, cars, and jewelry to the next sucker. Fans see these rap stars flashing all this shiny crap in videos and living in fancy digs. But they never hear about what happens after they're not maki

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        "they usually give the artist an advance to cover costs and then recoup that money from the sales."

        WITH INTEREST! You are forgetting a teeny tiny part...

    • by Ruke (857276) on Monday August 15, 2011 @04:10PM (#37098610)
      Not true. The typical record label deal is essentially a loan: artists are given a lump sum of money up front, and then are under contract to produce and sell music. The record labels then take a cut of the sales, paying off the orginal forwarded money over time. From TFA:

      Independent copyright experts, however, find that argument unconvincing. Not only have recording artists traditionally paid for the making of their records themselves, with advances from the record companies that are then charged against royalties, they are also exempted from both the obligations and benefits an employee typically expects.

      “This is a situation where you have to use your own common sense,” said June M. Besek, executive director of the Kernochan Center for Law, Media and the Arts at the Columbia University School of Law. “Where do they work? Do you pay Social Security for them? Do you withdraw taxes from a paycheck? Under those kinds of definitions it seems pretty clear that your standard kind of recording artist from the ’70s or ’80s is not an employee but an independent contractor.”

    • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Monday August 15, 2011 @04:11PM (#37098630) Homepage

      Two things though. First, as a software developer your contract with your employer states explicitly that the copyright on code you produce rests with your employer, not you. If it didn't, the default rules are that you own the code, not the company. Second. software developers like that are also W2 employees, not independent contractors. And that makes a difference. There's been several run-ins between companies and the IRS about employee status, and the labels may be walking into a minefield. If the artists really are employees, not independent contractors, then the labels are responsible for payroll tax withholding, unemployment insurance payments, employer's portion of SSI and Medicare taxes, etc. etc..

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      *Achievement unlocked: Didn't read the article! +25 Slashpoints!*

      FTA:

      Independent copyright experts, however, find that argument unconvincing. Not only have recording artists traditionally paid for the making of their records themselves, with advances from the record companies that are then charged against royalties, they are also exempted from both the obligations and benefits an employee typically expects.

      “This is a situation where you have to use your own common sense,” said June M. Besek, executive director of the Kernochan Center for Law, Media and the Arts at the Columbia University School of Law. “Where do they work? Do you pay Social Security for them? Do you withdraw taxes from a paycheck? Under those kinds of definitions it seems pretty clear that your standard kind of recording artist from the ’70s or ’80s is not an employee but an independent contractor.”

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by PuckSR (1073464)

      Not exactly. That analogy is too simple.

      A coder is hired to write code for a project. A musician is 'hired' to record a work that they created. The work exists independent of the record company. The same cannot be said of the coder. The coder does not write code and then get hired to put his code in the game. If the code existed before the formal business relationship, then the code is licensed from the coder.

      This is actually a point that frequently comes up. Someone works on a project while working

    • There are plenty of artists who negotiated the rights to their masters; effectively they own the recordings. Ray Charles was one, and I believe David Bowie also owns the masters to all but his early material.

    • by gurps_npc (621217)
      Wrong. You misunderstand the specifics of the case.

      The problem is that all the original contracts assumed that the copyright would expire after a reasonable period of time. As such, when the authors sold the rights, they sold the rights until the end of the THEN EXISTING COPYRIGHT laws.

      When congress sunk to evil and stupidly extended the copyright laws, some of the congressmen had enough morals to put in restrictions. That is, they refused to extend the copyrights to give the publishers additional ri

    • by cfulmer (3166)
      It doesn't matter. Whether a work is a "work made for hire" is a question of law. It either has to (1) be made in the scope of an employee's employment, or (2) be "Specially ordered or commissioned for use as a contribution to a collective work, as a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, as a translation, as a supplementary work, as a compilation, as an instructional text, as a test, as answer material for a test, or as an atlas, if the parties expressly agree in a written instrument signed
    • by i_ate_god (899684)

      This is true. Except recording contracts are setup to force the artist to repay the costs of production, so presumably, they are not works for hire since ultimately, the artist paid for the production of the workand thus "self-financed"

    • Unless the artists self-financed it and didn't make contracts with record labels, it basically is work for hire.

      First of all, wouldn't the law trump a contract?

      And secondly, isn't it strange to call it "work for hire" when the recording costs like studio time, engineering, mastering, distribution and promotion are taken off the top before the artists ever see a dime? Is it "work for hire" if you have to sign your own paycheck?

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        "First of all, wouldn't the law trump a contract?"

        Corporations are trying very hard to fix that loophole.

    • by iamwahoo2 (594922)
      I do not agree that it is the same as a software developer working for a company as an employee. Many artists create their works before they are ever signed by a label, so they cannot always be thought of as an employee, but a subcontractor might be a closer analog. If my knowledge is correct, a software development contract basically has to spell out "this is work for hire" or it is not considered work for hire.
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday August 15, 2011 @04:01PM (#37098498)

    Yeah, they were way more expensive than those master recordings. But if you have the means, I highly recommend it.

    Expect "clarifications" to this law any day now--just like Congress constantly revises [wikipedia.org] copyright law to make sure that nothing past 1923 is EVER out of copyright (after generous campaign contributions from the good people at Disney, of course).

    And if you're thinking there is anything that you as a citizen can do, don't you worry your pretty little head about it. With both major parties supporting pro-industry IP legislation, there is really nothing you can do about it. But if you want a nice form letter to frame, you can go ahead and waste a stamp and write to your Congressman.

    • Maybe, maybe not. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Monday August 15, 2011 @04:11PM (#37098624)

      Remember, the people in Congress are always up for re-election (unless retiring).

      Now if a few groups like The Eagles decide to make this a public issue, then their fans may be persuaded to vote in a different person who is more agreeable to The Eagles' argument.

      It's difficult for the various corporate interests to simultaneously claim to be pro-artist-rights with regard to "intellectual property" and also claim that the artist was nothing more than a day-laborer with no rights to the finished product.

      • by Merk42 (1906718)

        Remember, the people in Congress are always up for re-election (unless retiring).

        Now if a few groups like The Eagles decide to make this a public issue, then their fans may be persuaded to vote in a different person who is more agreeable to The Eagles' argument.

        It's difficult for the various corporate interests to simultaneously claim to be pro-artist-rights with regard to "intellectual property" and also claim that the artist was nothing more than a day-laborer with no rights to the finished product.

        And that replacement to the Congressman will be bought and paid for once entering office.

      • by mbone (558574)

        It's difficult for the various corporate interests to simultaneously claim to be pro-artist-rights with regard to "intellectual property" and also claim that the artist was nothing more than a day-laborer with no rights to the finished product.

        If they can lie about the first, why should it be difficult to lie about the second ?

      • by Schemat1c (464768)

        Remember, the people in Congress are always up for re-election (unless retiring).

        Now if a few groups like The Eagles decide to make this a public issue, then their fans may be persuaded to vote in a different person who is more agreeable to The Eagles' argument.

        It is well known that the candidate who drops the most money on his/her campaign is the one who 'wins'. There is a lot of money out there for politicians who are willing to support the desires of these parasites, especially now that money has been ruled 'free speech'.

      • by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday August 15, 2011 @04:34PM (#37098972) Journal

        The whole "pro-artist" claim was pure unadulterated bullshit even before this latest wrinkle. Look at acts like King Crimson and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, who basically were ripped off in every conceivable way. The record companies, even where the contract bound them, simply ignored it, did what they wanted, and then challenged the artists to come after them. Tom Petty, as I understand, had hit records under his belt and went broke at one point. Robert Fripp has had an ongoing war with Universal/UMG over their violation of contracts, even to the point where this huge corporation with a kazillion accountants cannot even provide him with a printout of the the royalties owed to him. Basically, their attitude has been "Don't like it, sue us, and we'll keep this going forever." In Fripp's case, he's called their bluff and has basically told them he is willing to fight on until a judge orders compliance.

        Hell, even EMI tried to fuck over the Beatles on royalty payments, basically withholding, in violation of contract, until the surviving members and the estates of Harrison and Lennon went after them. If they have no compunction against picking the most successful music act in history's pockets, imagine being a relatively small-time player.

        The record companies have been evil thieving bastards for decades. Guys like Bo Diddley, who recorded seminal and highly influential pieces in the popular music genres were given a pittance, and even saw their publishing rights screwed from them, so they couldn't even at least enjoy any substantial benefit from having written the songs.

        • by Chaonici (1913646)
          Tom Petty's 2002 album, The Last DJ [wikimedia.org], is partially a stab at the greed and evil of the recording industry. Particularly, the tracks The Last DJ, Money Becomes King, Joe, and Can't Stop The Sun.
      • by zegota (1105649)
        You really think a significant portion of the electorate is going to vote based on whether or not Billy Joel should be able to retrieve the rights for his songs?
        • Those who basically support criminalizing their electorate, contradicting the principle that punishment must be proportional to damage? i'd say it's a data point worthy of consideration.

    • by PTBarnum (233319)

      Fortunately congresspeople, like creators of other works of law, were granted 'termination rights,' which allow them to regain control of their souls after 35 years, so long as they apply at least two years in advance. 'We believe the termination right doesn’t apply to most politician souls,' said Lucifer, general counsel for the Decree Enacting Vocational Industry League, a lobbying group in Washington that represents the interests of lobbyists.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You're cynicism is laudable, but you fail to recognize that Congress has many masters, and sometimes these masters come into conflict. In fact, the RIAA got Congress in 1999 to say that recordings were works for hire, but the musician lobby subsequently had that amendment repealed. This is why the definition of "work for hire" under S. 101 of the Copyright Act has the absurd language telling courts to disregard the previous amendment. Otherwise, the fact that Congress repealed it would tell courts that the

    • Expect "clarifications" to this law any day now--

      They tried that about 11 years ago, as covered here [slashdot.org], among other places.

      The short version is that in November 1999, "the recording industry lobby quietly slipped a passage deep into the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act of 1999, that classified sound recordings as work for hire -- effectively preventing copyright from reverting to the artist after 35 years." The change was noticed, strong arguments were made against it, and the RIAA ended up reversing its position in August 2000. The Work Made for Hire

    • by lakeland (218447)

      To be fair, it won't cost you a stamp

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 15, 2011 @04:07PM (#37098568)

    OK, fine. They were employees. You did file all the IRS paperwork required for an employee, didn't you? No? Hello, RIAA this is the IRS. We'd like to review some matters with you...

    • by TheSpoom (715771) <[ten.00mrebu] [ta] [todhsals]> on Monday August 15, 2011 @04:23PM (#37098814) Homepage Journal

      I guarantee that legally speaking, they'll claim they were independent contractors, which allows a "work for hire" without all the messiness of an employer-employee relationship. It has the added bonus of making the musician responsible for all taxes.

      • by Compaqt (1758360)

        Wha? I thought that being an independent contractor is exactly the situation in which you do own your own work, unless you have an explicit contract stating "work for hire".

        • by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Monday August 15, 2011 @04:49PM (#37099200) Homepage

          It's somewhat more complicated.

          In the US, a work may be a work made for hire under one of two circumstances:

          First, if the work is specially ordered or commissioned, the work falls into one of a handful of categories enumerated in the Copyright Act (e.g. part of an atlas, part of a motion picture) and the parties involved expressly agree in a written instrument that they both sign, that the work shall be considered a work made for hire. (N.B.: Unless the work is of one of the specific types, explicitly saying that a work is made for hire doesn't mean anything.)

          Second, if the work is prepared by an employee in the scope of their employment, the employer will be considered to be the author, unless the parties involved expressly agree in a written instrument that they both sign, that the work shall not be considered a work made for hire.

          But Congress never really addressed what constitutes employment in this situation, so the courts will look at a number of factors to try to figure it out, e.g. who supplied the equipment that was used, where the labor occured, how it was treated for tax purposes, etc. It's entirely possible for a contractor to be considered an employee for the purposes of this part of copyright law, given the right circumstances.

          The Wikipedia [wikimedia.org] article on this goes into more depth.

    • by gman003 (1693318) on Monday August 15, 2011 @04:49PM (#37099206)

      No no no! Don't introduce those two organizations! You'll reach a critical mass of evil and the world will collapse into a singularity!

    • by Idbar (1034346)
      Furthermore, if that's the result of an innovative creation by their employees, they should patent it, and get the 20 years patents should get.
    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      I think there's a difference between owning a song and owning a particular recording of that song. So maybe the rights to the music and words could revert to the musician while the recording company still retains rights to the actual recording.

  • Can an artist make a "Cover Song" of his/her song out of contract of a big record label, I wonder why artists haven't thought of this. Or do record companies own everything an artist does while in contract?

    • Some have. For some reason, they rarely turn out to be very good, and some are downright impossible to listen to. For example, if you are at all familiar with Jefferson Starship/Starship, I dare you to listen to this album: http://www.amazon.com/Greatest-Hits-Of-The-80s/dp/B000VB9WSO/ [amazon.com]

      • In the real world, here's what happens to pop stars: their song becomes #1, they sing and perform it a bazillion times, get burned out of singing and performing that song and vow to never, ever sing it again, and literally go for 20 years without so much as humming the melody. Then their kids get to college, and Princeton/Yale/Harvard is pretty expensive, even if you ARE fairly wealthy. They also start feeling old, and decide to go on tour to rekindle the flame, relive their youth, and pay their kids' tuiti

        • I don't think this is specific to pop per se. (though maybe that depends on how you define "pop": "a specific genre" or "anything besides classical, opera, et cetera.")

          Yes, there are many oldschool musicians that are still active. (whether or not they stayed active all this time).
          Yes, some still "have it", some don't.

          Also, even those who are still around and still good sometimes shy away from their old material

      • Some have. For some reason, they rarely turn out to be very good, and some are downright impossible to listen to. For example, if you are at all familiar with Jefferson Starship/Starship, I dare you to listen to this album: http://www.amazon.com/Greatest-Hits-Of-The-80s/dp/B000VB9WSO/ [amazon.com]

        First of all, anything they did after changing their name from Jefferson Airplane is downright impossible to listen to . So even the original recordings were awful IMO. But that album was recorded in 2007, so most, if not all, of the songs were recorded 20+ years later. On top of that, I don't think any of the members that were on the 2007 recording were in the band in the 80's, or it was only one member at best. And, no, I won't take that dare.

        • by afabbro (33948)

          First of all, anything they did after changing their name from Jefferson Airplane is downright impossible to listen to.

          And anything before they changed the name was even worse.

      • Haha... I was renting a studio space out of a place in St. Louis years ago and Marty Balin was there recording some songs for a new album. I've never fully recovered from those two weeks of listening to him sing.

        This was the album... Freedom Flight [cduniverse.com]

  • Funny... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WillyWanker (1502057) on Monday August 15, 2011 @04:09PM (#37098598)
    It's funny how the RIAA is so concerned with artists' livelihoods when they're bitching about piracy. But when it actually comes time to pay those artists, or transfer the ownership of the songs they created, the RIAA suddenly starts playing a different tune (pun most certainly intended).
    • Screw the artists! We want to keep making money off them in perpetuity.

      We'll just say they're "employees", despite the fact no taxes were deducted from the "payroll", no hours reported to any employment agencies, or anything else to indicate they were anything but independant artists.

      Feh. The RIAA and MPAA make me sick with their fraudulent accounting games. They're nothing but thieves who contribute NOTHING OF VALUE.

  • Shocked! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Baloroth (2370816) on Monday August 15, 2011 @04:12PM (#37098646)

    'We believe the termination right doesn’t apply to most sound recordings,' said Steven Marks, general counsel for the Recording Industry Association of America, a lobbying group in Washington that represents the interests of record labels. As the record companies see it, the master recordings belong to them in perpetuity,

    Really? I definitely didn't see that coming. It is absolutely shocking that the RIAA and co. would think that they own the recording artist's soul.... er music for all time. /sarcasm

    OF COURSE the RIAA is going to say that. Nevermind that the law was specifically created to handle this kind of situation, the RIAA doesn't care about the law, the artists, or consumers, they only care about the profits of their cartel. It isn't "work for hire": if that were the case, the artists would get absolutely no royalties (royalties are more or less an admission that you still own the copyright in part). Of course, they often don't get any actual royalties, but that is besides the point. Again, the artist wouldn't go on tour performing the music, the music wouldn't be released under the artist's name, all sorts of things.

    The record companies finance the recording and advertising of the work, but they don't create it in any way, neither in the performance nor the writing. They deserve some recompense for that, but 35 years worth is far, far more than enough. They didn't actually do the creative effort, and they shouldn't be able to control the ultimate destiny of the recording. Work for hire might go if they wrote a song and asked someone to sing it. But generally, all creative effort belongs solely to the artist, and they deserve control of their work.

    • Work for hire might go if they wrote a song and asked someone to sing it.

      Not all recording artists write their own songs. How many artists have recorded songs by Holland-Dozier-Holland or Stock Aitken Waterman or other similar songwriting and production teams?

    • Re:Shocked! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DavidTC (10147) <slas45dxsvadiv.vadiv@NoSpam.neverbox.com> on Monday August 15, 2011 @04:26PM (#37098844) Homepage

      The record companies finance the recording and advertising of the work, but they don't create it in any way, neither in the performance nor the writing.

      No, even that isn't true. Record companies don't finance the recording or advertising of the work.

      They issue a loan to the artist called an 'advance' (Which is spent on making the record.) and require the artist to pay it back before they start making any money.

      The idea that it's a work-for-hire is complete and utter nonsense. At no point has the music industry ever operated like that.

      • by Baloroth (2370816)

        No, even that isn't true. Record companies don't finance the recording or advertising of the work.

        They issue a loan to the artist called an 'advance' (Which is spent on making the record.) and require the artist to pay it back before they start making any money.

        That is, by one definition, "financing". Just like a bank finances a mortgage for you to buy a house. The record company takes a chance (albeit a fairly small one) by advancing the money. However, you are correct, the artist is expected to pay it back (hence my comment about many artists not seeing any royalties: those go back to the record company). My point is that many artists (at least in the past) couldn't have succeeded without this financial aid and the resources of the recording industry, and I am

    • You'd be surprised how much of the creative process involves management, the A&R rep, and of course the producer. However, for original songs, the process is still always the artist bringing the ideas and the others shaping them. They each get a percentage - management straight from the artist, A&R guy from the label, and the producer generally takes 4% of gross album sales from the label. These percentages are there specifically to ensure they are all duty compensated BECAUSE they don't have rig

  • by AJWM (19027) on Monday August 15, 2011 @04:17PM (#37098704) Homepage

    The studio may well own the copyright on the sound recording, just as a book publisher may own the copyright on the plates used to print a book, but unless they retain performance rights and other copyrights on the original song music and lyrics (which the original composer/songwriter could revert under this law), they can't let anyone perform that recording, or make additional copies of it. (Just as a book publisher couldn't use his plates to make additional copies of the book if the original copyright has reverted.)

    The devil is partially in the details of the contract, of course. But there's no single copyright in a work, it's a collection of rights which can be sliced up and sublicensed all kinds of different ways, and over and over again unless the artist sold/licensed a right exclusively. (Writer/publisher Dean Wesley Smith compares this to a pie from which you can sell slices indefinitely, what he calls The Magic Bakery.)

    (Disclaimer: IANAL, but I am a writer with a vested interest in understanding copyright law.)

  • The master recordings is like an original artwork. While they may belong to the studio, the right to make new copies from them belongs to the copyright owner not the owner of the physical copy.

    But, without the original recordings, "new copies" can't be made, effectively turning the existing print run into a limited edition. A limited edition of millions, perhaps, but still limited.

    • by Compaqt (1758360)

      Well, what if CD's have been made of the record in the meantime? As in "digital, perfect" copies?

  • by softWare3ngineer (2007302) on Monday August 15, 2011 @04:19PM (#37098736)
    because they will need them for the decades of litigation that it will take to get the song rights back.
    • by jedidiah (1196)

      Some of them do actually. So this might end up successfully litigated in their favor.

      The biggest cash cows will likely involve the richest musicians. However, any precedents will likely carry weight even for the more obscure and penniless artists.

      I could see Janie Lane yanking Cherry Pie into the public domain just out of spite (if he weren't dead already).

  • by bioster (2042418) on Monday August 15, 2011 @04:27PM (#37098860)
    It was recently pointed out to me that I was wrong about how I thought a 'work for hire' worked. So I did 10 seconds of research on wikipedia (yeah yeah, not authoritative, blah blah), and found this page:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Work_for_hire [wikipedia.org]

    Giving it a read might help you arm-chair lawyers, but I'll skip to an easily digested sound bite for everyone:

    A "work made for hire" is— (1) a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment

    On the other hand, if the work is created by an independent contractor or freelancer, the work may be considered a work for hire only if all of the following conditions are met: * the work must come within one of the nine limited categories of works listed in the definition above, namely (1) a contribution to a collective work, (2) a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, (3) a translation, (4) a supplementary work, (5) a compilation, (6) an instructional text, (7) a test, (8) answer material for a test, (9) an atlas; * the work must be specially ordered or commissioned; * there must be a written agreement between the parties specifying that the work is a work made for hire.

    So, put simply you either have to be a regular 9-5er employee (which I think it's clear the vast majority of musicians are not), or you have to fulfil a pretty specific list of requirements which includes an explicit clause in their contract that it be a work for hire. Long story short, they've got no case.

    • I'm willing to bet their six-figure-salary lawyers are willing to claim otherwise in a court of law. For years at a time.

  • by bobdotorg (598873) on Monday August 15, 2011 @04:28PM (#37098874)

    The studios' accounting tricks in their standard artist's contract is what will kill them. Awesome.

    FTFA:

    Not only have recording artists traditionally paid for the making of their records themselves, with advances from the record companies that are then charged against royalties, they are also exempted from both the obligations and benefits an employee typically expects.

    Here's my favorite article about record contracts from the pre-internet era:
    http://www.ram.org/ramblings/philosophy/fmp/albini.html [ram.org]

  • it protects distributors. as such, it is a joke, a lie

    and i'm not sure how to fix it. we do need some sort of intellectual property law. but enough sonny bonos in congress, enough lawyer hacks working for disney, extending the concept of intellectual property into realms of absurdity in terms of period of time and type of property, for a few more pennies on the corporate bottom line, and we have a broken system with no easy path to repair

    • by erroneus (253617)

      To fix it is easy. Just make it so that copyrights cannot be bought or sold; only managed. Make it so that each copy is approved by the rights holder so that an accounting of the royalties can be made and paid upon sale. In short, strip away the right to print money from the publishers.

    • One thought I had is that there be two types of copyrights. One type covers private works. This type applies by default and is unregistered. The other type is for commercialized material. In order to perform a work, or release for sale, a copyright must be registered (for a cost). This registered copyright gives the owner rights for one year. At the end of each year, the owner may re-register the work if they intend on continuing to perform or sell it, granting rights for a further year, or the work e
  • Ever since they stopped filing mass lawsuits against music sharers, public hatred for the RIAA has dropped a bit. Yes, they're still doing evil things behind the scenes, like pushing for "three strikes" and supporting ACTA, but those acts aren't publicized as well as the mass lawsuits were.

    By contrast, the MPAA is constantly in the news about the latest evil thing it's been doing. The same goes for similar organizations like the BSA, IFPI, and AFACT.

    I think the RIAA is yearning for the days when they were t

  • by J'raxis (248192) on Monday August 15, 2011 @04:47PM (#37099178) Homepage

    When watching this fight ensue, just remember that this is the organization that has spent the past 15-20 years fighting "piracy" claiming to be standing up for the rights of their artists.

  • Minor clarification (Score:3, Interesting)

    by davidwr (791652) on Monday August 15, 2011 @04:48PM (#37099192) Homepage Journal

    I made the assumption that, as "master recordings," they contained information that was not available in any published copy.

    Two examples:

    * The master recordings were analog and in a higher fidelity than any published copy, or they were in a digital format and were in a higher fidelity than any published copy

    * The master recordings were the tapes used by the engineer to make the "disk master" from which consumer copies are made. Master recordings may have one track per microphone or instrumental pickup, if not more. The "disk master" is probably 2-tracks (stereo) to mirror the consumer product.

    As artifacts, the studios own the master recordings. In this way, they are like an original painting.

    • Yes, access to the original master is something the owner could exert some control over via some method besides copyright law.

  • by spaceyhackerlady (462530) on Monday August 15, 2011 @04:54PM (#37099262)

    I was amused to read in the article how the record companies are increasingly dependent on older releases, since newer releases are distributed through different means that don't involve them. This begs the usual question, who guaranteed that a particular business model would be a valid one forever? I wasn't aware of any such guarantees.

    They also invoke ILLEGAL DOWNLOADING as part of the reason for their decline in sales. Gasp. Eek. Yikes. No evidence, of course, but they know it's happening. For sure. Yup.

    The fact that many of the new releases are crap doesn't seem to enter in to it...

    ...laura

  • Steve Marks has been RIAA's legal puppet for a looong time, he must be doing something "right". I remember writing nasty letters to him back in the day, just for sport; he's an arrogant prick and I hope he's proven wrong.

  • Look at how many popular bands from the late 70's and early 80's are still around now and still popular. Bands like Aerosmith, Van Halen, ACDC, Pink Floyd, Kiss, Elvis Costello, The Cure, Prince, Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac, The Pretenders, John Melancamp, Bruce Springsteen, etc...are all still around in one form or another and all still selling well and have huge fan bases. Perhaps this the the time when the RIAA's hypocrisy is fully exposed and the tide turns? While money can be very influential in politics so is a support base...I would imagine that it would be rather easy for artists to enlighten and sway popular opinion. While I know its definitely a difficult fight, ultimately the politicians care about reelection more than how greased their palms get in the short term and going up for reelection as "the guy that screwed over Springsteen" surely isn't going to garner the popular vote, the RIAA may have the money but they dont have the electorate.

  • Rewarding people for their work contradicts the principles of the free market. It will not be allowed.
  • - call the IRS and audit the bastards for back tax

  • The music industry executives and laywers (or are they one and the same?) keeps crying a river to politicians, the public, the press and within the industry to its artists that they are losing 100's of millions a year and they can barely keep the boat aflot.

    Meanwhile, they have hoardes of nerds illegally searching for file sharers. Have hired briefcase salespeople for presentations to politicians (yes there is a relationship to music here). They've also hired reams of lawyers to collect money from artisits.

  • I know they have all works "essentially" in perpetuity, but they are claiming "in perpetuity" as in forever? Seriously?

    Among the many other sticking points, it's about time their belief in forever is changed in rather short time.

We are not a loved organization, but we are a respected one. -- John Fisher

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