We hear a lot from the copyleft and opponents of Artist’s Rights that copyright stifles creativity, but this is simply not true. We’re not going to go down the tired road of the arguments about remixing, which can be read in this excellent article at Copyhype titled, “Remix Without Romance.”
The truth is, the best ecosystem for creativity is the one where all stakeholders are compensated. This is why in the early 90s sample clearance statutes were defined, and as a result we’ve seen some of the most innovative music, in the history of recorded music. This creativity has been achieved legally by creating fair and balanced policy. Historically, that is how policy evolves, such as it did with phonographs and radio — when both were getting off the ground, the law eventually recognized that artists have a right to be compensated, and both eventually flourished, also benefiting all stakeholders.
There are also other areas where copyright encourages creativity and innovation, as opposed to the illegal exploitation of previously existing works. We had an interesting conversation recently with one of our friends who is a music supervisor working on major feature films.
What they noted as being interesting is that many of the people opposed to Artist’s Rights and fair compensation on the internet often cite the use of licensing music to films as a potential revenue stream for developing artists. This is one thing we can agree with them on, but the revenue is only possible because of the very copyright laws that the copyleft are opposed to.
What if “sharing” extended to all uses of the artists work? What if Hollywood producers were able to illegal exploit artists work with impunity the same way The Pirate Bay and other illegally operating businesses do? How does it work when no one ever has to compensate artists for the commercial exploitation of their work? And yet, this is essentially what is proposed by those on the copyleft who are opposed to Artists Rights!
Proposing that the rules of fairness and ethics applied respectfully and legally in Hollywood for music licensing do not apply to companies online is a self-serving double standard promoted by the illegally operating internet businesses to serve their own agenda and profits. The irony of course is that these same people often attack Hollywood as being unfair to artists.
It is the very Right of the artist to choose how their work is used and distributed that allows for new creativity and opportunities. We’ve been told that there are many times when working on a major motion picture there will be the desire to use a song by a very well known artist. Sometimes this song may be a massive current hit, or perhaps an iconic older song that has a deep nostalgic value. In either case, the production can not simply use the first and perhaps most obvious choice for the film.
The creators of the song, that is the songwriters and the performers of the recording, must first be consulted and approve of the use. Once the use is approved, the songwriters and performers (or their respective representatives) also get to negotiate the fee and terms of the use.
As creators who respect the Rights of others, and the law which protects creators, those who work in film music are often faced with situations, where for whatever reason, the song first selected for the use in a film is not approved. We don’t see these people going around whining about how unfair it is that they can’t use something against the artist’s wishes. They don’t go around whining about how the law is unfair because it protects the artist’s choice to participate or not.
Perhaps the artist does not feel the film represents them in a way that they want to be represented. Perhaps the artist feels they bring more value to the proposed use than the film’s producers do. It’s all about respecting the Artist’s Right to chose.
Whatever the case, those in Hollywood do not just exploit the artist’s song illegally and then complain that those who disagree with them are dinosaurs and “don’t get it.” Instead what they do in Hollywood is, they get creative.
Hollywood respects the artist and innovates! True creativity and innovation is working within the limitations presented and seeking new opportunities that would not have been discovered from constant unlimited access to the low hanging fruit and the path of least resistance. It’s always exciting to see the prospect of discovering new talent that can create fantastic new music to compliment a cinematic expression. This is not something to complain about, it’s something to be celebrated. A film like Drive, illustrates this concept very well by featuring what were, largely unknown indie and DIY artists.
So when an artist of major stature or iconic acclaim disagrees with the vision of filmmakers for the use of their song, it just means that an opportunity has been created for another artist! This is the way it should be.
When we hear people talking about how copyright stifles creativity and opportunity, we have to wonder what their actual experience is working with artists and respecting their Rights?
There is nothing respectful about the state of the online exploitation economy that takes from artists without consent or compensation. Artists Rights are expressed in copyright to protect creators from being taken advantage of by companies and corporations who otherwise would illegally profit from the artists work with impunity. This is the sad truth of how artists are being treated by illegally operating businesses online.
So the next time some tech blogger wants to point to Hollywood as exploiting artists, I think they should be looking in the mirror. Thus far, at a little over a decade in, there has been no greater disrespect to artists rights than the rampant illegal exploitation of artists online, and for profit.
As illustrated above, there’s no reason why companies, corporations and commercial business online should be able to exploit artists work without consent or compensation.
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