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Greetings,
More good comments and discussions last time. Thanks to all who read and post each week!
I think I’m still generally contemplating the ramifications of all things copyright this week. I just started reading The Rose and the Briar: Death, Love and Liberty in the American Ballad, and just reading the first few essays, which discuss songs like Barbara Allen and The Water is Wide, I found myself wondering about how these old songs might have fared had they been written today.
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These haunting, archetypical songs come from anonymous sources, not from single authors, and because of that, I think an interesting parallel can be drawn between the shared origins of these classic ballad songs and something contemporary like mashups.
Now, I’m not comparing the importance of, say, the Grey Album to a seven hundred year old song. However, the classic ballads exemplify what is artistically potent in the tranformation of personal content to shared content. Whatever you might think about mashups as a genre, a similar absorption of sources is at play. Who really knows where mashups might end up if they continue for 500 years?
Had the current copyright laws been in place in the 1500’s, that original version of a song might have been closed, insulated from the subsequent additions that transformed it from a singular bit of storytelling into a shared repository of human wisdom, dread, wonderment, and community.
So, if there is something shared and communal in the essential nature of music, and especially in songs, then would it follow that restricting the creative community’s freedom to amend, alter and interact with new ideas is in conflict with the essence of the art?
Have at it,
mz

Comments

  1. Kevin Seal
    April 02, 2007 at 2:03pm
    Thousands of years of oral tradition were turned on their head when the first recording technology was made available. The whole notion of authorship became tied to specific performance dates, and in many cases, songs became frozen in time at the date of their first commercially-available recording. This seismic shift was felt much more deeply in folk music idioms -- blues, jazz, rock and roll -- as Western classical music already had notation to serve as its medium for preservation. That said, your post calls into question the whole notion of authorship, and the roles of the composer and the performer in the presentation, ownership, and perception of the popular song. Has the advent of recording technology interfered with the mutability of the popular song? Yes, absolutely. Is this in conflict with the essence of the art? That one I'm not so sure about.
    Reply
  2. Lucia
    April 02, 2007 at 3:50pm
    Everyone who finds this topic interesting should check out Creative Commons! http://creativecommons.org/
    Reply
  3. Carnildo
    April 02, 2007 at 8:47pm
    It wasn't only recording technology that was responsible for this. Often, once someone collected lyrics for a musical tradition or genre and published a popular book on them, the lyrics would stop changing quickly -- there have been stories of a scholar going around collecting songs, only to have the person he's talking to pull out a previous edition of the scholar's book to make sure he's got the lyrics correct.
    Reply
  4. Jeffool
    April 02, 2007 at 9:51pm
    I don't believe that the idea of copyright is, in itself, a bad thing. I think the idea has a place in our system just like many other laws I may not love but see a greater need for. What's hurting art is the glorification of copyright at the expense of ideas like 'public domain'. Copyright (in the United States) originally lasted for seven years. That was at a time when communication and travel was slower by several orders of magnitude. Now communication is instant and older methods of travel took longer times to get shorter distances by orders of magnitude. As it got easier to profit off of your work, copyright went from seven years to over a century.* That makes no sense. And let's not forget that copyright ran out for two reasons. One, for the masses to reap the benefits of your idea/product even if they can't afford what you're charging, and two, to nudge creators to create more things. What was a system that gave a sliver of time to push your idea/product as much as possible and spur creativity for the benefit of the people has become a grant of sloth via ownership of non-physical creations that spur not creativity, but stagnation. Copyright isn't the admission of rightful ownership of an idea imbued by the constitution. It's the people agreeing to give a creator 'some' time to reap rewards off their work before we all move in and say "Time's up, hand it over." *(In the US copyright lasts either "seventy years after the creators death" or "120 years after creation, or 95 after publication, whichever is shorter.")
    Reply
  5. Roland
    April 03, 2007 at 5:46pm
    I LIVE FOR DAYS LIKE THESE I live for days like these on Western Washington State spring day. Yes its all a state of mind because everything is fine. The sun is radiating, the Red Breasted Sap Sucker is hang on the side of tree, the finches are chirping on the trellis, their checking out the realestate market because some new bird houses have been hung. A cool breeze is coming through green peaking trees. The water fall in the Koi pond is not only beautiful but is acousticly tuned as colors of live bodies dance under the splashing skirt. The lighter shades of tulips are showing thier pretty spring heads as the late spring tulips waiting patiently for their turn spark and to enlighten their surroundings. New shrubs have been planted and Pandora is filling the void in the brackground. The speakers are sitting on the patio and their wireless too. Connected to that invisible umbilical cord from the mother tower. Pandora is just jamming tunes out like a pro as I work my garden hoe. The station As Smooth As Her Thighs I haven't listened to in a while but it has plenty of artist style. These are days I live for when everything is right up to the beginning of night.
    Reply
  6. Mirimin
    April 10, 2007 at 11:48am
    I agree with Jeffool - copyright was extended time and time again, mostly driven by big companies like Disney. I was in a class discussing this - the professor was all for extension of copyright. The standard reason for copyright is to provide compensation for creators, so the issue is that after a certain point, copyright completely ceases to be a real incentive for creators. The actual beneficiary is the creator's heirs or more likely a Corporation that would buy the creator's work. The professor's point was that the marginal benefit to the world of those extra years of copyright wasn't that great either. My point was that the marginal benefit to one person may not be that great, but the benefit to the hundreds of thousands or millions of people who now have access to that information for free creates a much greater benefit that should only be outweighed by the incentivizing power of copyright to foster innovation and creation by the author in the first place. He didn't really have a response to that. But if you're viewing it from a Corporation lobbyist perspective, you want to retain control and milk your product for as long as possible. And these are the parties that have influence and make the laws change, not the mass of people who stand to benefit from shorter copyrights. This phenomenon is not limited to the U.S. and in fact the Berne Convention, to which the U.S. is a signatory, makes it so that national creators are at a disadvantage if their country doesn't have as long a copyright term as other countries. However, the standard is either 50 or 70 years - either way, we exceed it. That convention may result in sanctions to countries' who roll back copyright terms, assuming it could even be done nationally. A statutory license for sampling seems a much more feasible solution.
    Reply
  7. DJ EASTWOOD
    April 25, 2007 at 8:02am
    Is there a way to add my music on this site so people can hear my music as well?
    Reply
  8. Kiko
    April 27, 2007 at 10:55am
    Hey, is there any way to show your friends on your profile?
    Reply

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