Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Law demonstrates itself to be Ass (again)

You may have read about this court case. Now go and read this excellent post about why the judgement is so wrong-headed.

This sort of thing is what happens when a stupidly narrow view of what constitutes originality, a technology (recording) that means pretty much every bit of music ever created is available for ever and none forgotten (as would be natural otherwise), and avarice collide.

Those thieving bastards The Beatles nicked the tune for "Seargeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Cklub Band" from medievel song "L'homme armé". Mahler ran off with huge chunks of his friend Hans Rott's symphony and used them for his own First (and used them to vastly better efect by the way). Then there's that bit in Brahms's Third Symphony which is totally a rip-off of Dvořák's Seventh (or possibly Sixth, can't remember offhand) - or is it the other way around? Bastards, the lot of them.

Of course they didn't steal. Musical ideas crop up again and again, sometimes deliberately (Mahler, probably), sometimes by chance (Beatles, almost certainly). The idea that a combination of a few notes from a finite resource (a scale) is something to be set in stone and the basis to sue someone's arse off and get money off them is quite simply damaging to all music. I'm not arguing against creator rights here - of course musicians should have a right to protect their creations and make a living from them - for a limited time. But the reductionist view that copyright law takes of what constitutes originality, coupled with the ludicrous lengths of copyright terms, is an active obstacle to the natural growth and evolution of music as an artform.

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