The Government Giveth, The Government Taketh Away

By Jeff Price

Over the course of history, it was decided that people who made their ideas tangible –like songwriters– should make money.  So they made up a bunch of really esoteric, hard to understand rules­ (aka laws) on how it should all work.  The foundation for these laws can actually be found in the United States Constitution. The rules built on this concept get updated from time to time, but ultimately the foundation of the six legal rights that a person gets when he or she creates a copyrighted work, by making a song tangible (meaning it’s recorded or written down) are the basis for all the rules, laws and money made in the music industry.

Which, if you think about it, is a bit weird, because, what is it that is actually being sold when someone buys “music?”  A buyer walks out of the store with some sort of device (like a vinyl record, CD or digital download) and plops it onto a machine.  That machine “plays” the device, causing a speaker to vibrate in such a way that sound waves move through the air to our ears.  Our ears detect these sound waves, and transmit them to our brains as electrical impulses.  Our brains interpret these impulses and we “hear” the music.

In other words, unlike food or clothes, there is nothing tangible to a song beyond the intangible memory of what you just heard.  The sound of music always lives in the past.

And yet, the governments of the world (acting on behalf of their constituents; in theory at least) decided that these transmissions of sound waves, and the people who wrote the songs, are so valuable and important, that they created a complex set of laws and regulations.  These laws require that licenses be granted and payments  be made to the people/entities controlling the rights to the recordings of the songs (usually called a “record label”) and the lyrics and melody of the song (usually called the “songwriter” or “music publisher”).

These rules and regulations tie together, regulate, and give basis for a global consortium of tens of millions of record labels, artists, songwriters, music publishers, performing rights organizations, and mechanical royalty collection agencies, to generate and collect and administer over $23 billion dollars.

And the governments of the world take this stuff very, very seriously.  So much so, that there is an entire shadow economy built around an infrastructure of copyright boards, judges, copyright police, congressional committees, and teams of lawyers that are supposed to be the experts in knowing all the rules, and, in some cases, set royalty rates as to what these innovative creators should be paid.

However, in a move that could be construed as paradoxical (or, at the very least a “head scratcher”) these very same governments that created a way to assure that artists, songwriters and record labels can make money also decided that a songwriter/lable only gets these rights for 70 years after the death of the last surviving person who wrote the song (or ninety-five years from the date of publication in the case of a work for hire), after which point, all of the author’s rights get taken away, and the song becomes a “public domain” work,  This means it’s available for anyone to use in any way they like without having to pay or negotiate anything with anyone.

Or put another way, 69 years and 364 days after the death of the last surviving writer, the people who control the rights to the song (like someone’s child or grandchildren) get to make money from the use of that song.  The next day they don’t; one hell of a Monday to a Tuesday.

Which brings up the question as to why.  Why give all of these rights and all of these rules for a set period of time?  What is the reason that on that last magical day the very same hand that gave these rights decides it’s enough and takes them all away?

After all, when a song’s rights are stripped away from the person who wrote it, and the copyrights expire, many other people can make money off the recording and song.  For example, at some point in time, the Beatles’ recordings and songs will enter the public domain, and when they do, anyone can release a Beatles album or cover Paul/John’s song without paying them.  If someone buys that song or album physically from Amazon, a slew of people make money off the Beatles: Amazon makes money, the person who sold it makes money, the entity that made the cardboard box that the CD ships in makes money, the U.S. postal service makes money.  The Beatles’ label, their estate, and John and Paul’s estates don’t make money from the sale.

Hardly seems fair.

On the other hand, what happens if Dr. Evil comes to life, only this time he has a trillion dollars at his disposal (don’t laugh too hard, there was a moment not too long ago when Bill Gates was worth a trillion dollars),  and he decides he is going to buy the copyrights to all the recordings and songs in the world.  Without a reversion of copyright, the world would be denied access to these creations.  Corporations could hoard them forever, and perpetually deny or grant access at their whim.  Put another way, corporations would have a complete and total stranglehold on culture (one could argue they already do, but that’s a different topic).

And thus the tension between the public good vs. copyright holders and creators comes to play with the government standing in between them, trying to come up with a solution that does not tip the scales too far on way or another.

The question I have relates to technology opening the flood gates to more creators: should there be a re-evaluation of this tension?  I honestly don’t have the answer, and I truly can argue both sides of this equation.  If it were me, and I wrote and recorded the song “Paperback Writer,” why the hell should I not be entitled to make money off the thing I created?  Who the hell is the government to interfere with my rights and decide it’s been long enough for me, or my children, or their children’s children to make money off my creation.  If I build a house, the government doesn’t get to take it away from me after a period of time and say it is “public domain.”  Why is my song, my creation, thought less of than a house?

On the other hand, somehow it would just not feel right to me if Mozart’s great-great-great-great-great (not sure how many greats should go here) grandchildren got paid each and every time his Flute Concerto No. 2 In D Major – K. 314 was played and sold.

In other words, what is the place of public domain and the reversion of copyright in the new emerging digital music industry?

My concern is not over what the answer is, but instead who gets to shape the discussion. To this point in time, the creators themselves are the minority voice.  The multi-national corporations that have gobbled up and/or “own” all of these songs and copyrights are the ones pulling the strings, lobbying for changes to the law.  This would be fine if the creators of culture–aka artists–and corporations were in step with one another, but this is hardly the case.

Today’s world has allowed musicians and artists to break free of a system requiring them to relinquish their copyrights to pursue their dreams and ambitions.  Together they are louder than any other music entity.  The trick is allowing their voice to be heard.  TuneCore is simply a megaphone, you are the voice.

  • RMLoftus

    why is Napster ..or .Rhapsody  other …selling songs/melodies which are not theirs  (they have no copyrights)  to the public for $10.00 or similar amounts  ……..for FREE, meaning what?????free downloading …who gets the money???????? it is all scamming on people’s backs……
    .they are making the money …the artists don;t…..
    rml

  • Anjouone

    Useless post.

    • Anonymous

      would love to know your opinion on it

      surely you must have one…do you agree/disagree with copyright expiring? Yes, no and why?
      jeff

      • Tamekomichelle

        Jeff they only expire if you as the artist of family member allow them to do so.  If you send in a renewal they remain yours forever.  Your estate can transfer the copyright in your death to familyh members.  Many just let them expire because they haven’t been cut by someone.  You should always renew them.  This way if 35 years from now someone wants to cut a song your family would be entitled to royalties.  But hey if you don’t know you can renew I guess you let them expire but I read what I was signing when I got my copyrights.

  • birdy

    Why not write your next post on the hidden plethora of valuable historic American  music that isn’t released because of outdated and overextended copyright laws preventing valuable culture from seeing the light of day.

    • Anonymous

      why dont you write that and post it here – sounds like an interesting topic
      jeff

  • Nar r reg

    This post said basically nothing at all. Research a topic and take a position or don’t bother writing and wasting people’s time.

    • Anonymous

      i can not reach a conclusion – i am interested in hearing your perspective on an important topic
      jeff

      • Indiecds

        Why is it so important? Isn’t it just the copyright to the words and music that expire or does the copyright to the sound recordings also expire? 

        Elvis did not write his own songs but it seems to me that his heirs will always own the copyright to the sound recordings or am I under a wrong assumption? 

        • Anonymous

          its important because the copyrights granted to the song or the recording of the song allow the people that write them or distribute them to make money.
          if these rights did not exist, anyone could steal, distribute, release anyone else’s recordings and/or songs and not have to compensate them.
          The copyrights to the sound recordings also expire. Check this out – http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2011/09/no-beatles-for-you-eu-adds-20-years-to-music-copyrights.ars
          jeff

          • Mike

            Is this perhaps part of the reason for remastering and re-releases – so they can renew copyright on something. I think Elvises copyrights are owned by his estate which is under corporate administration. So a corporation owns it, maybe his family gets dividends for that. It’s a tough call, but I still believe in letting the individual decide, and where they don’t specifically stipulate, then erring on the side of property rights. If there are none to apply,then public domain.

        • Bill

          As I understand it, the “original” copyright of a song recognizes the right to ownership by the writer/creator of  the words and music of that song. The “production” copyright denotes ownership of the produced song on a sound recording by the person or persons who paid to have the sound recording produced.  

          The ownership of either a song, or production of a song is protected by copyright law, by virtue of it being considered as property. At this time, under the law, ” intellectual” property (songs, works of art, books etc.) can be passed on to heirs like any other piece of property.

          But, sooner or later, music, like almost everything else, goes out of fashion, and when that happens, people tend to forget it. It ends up in basements and attics until one day, if it’s lucky, it gets re-discovered. If no one at that time steps forward to claim ownership, it then becomes part of the public domain. 

          However, if a loving parent wishes to pass on some property to his or her children (whether deserving or underserving), that parent has the right to do so. That is the law, and because the law recognizes intellectual property as property, the owner of that property can bequeath it to succeeding generations. The rest of us have no say in the matter, since we are not mentioned in the Will.

        • Myoozishen

          The copyright to a sound recording does not expire. If you release a digital version of “Silent Night” that you transferred off an old cylinder recording from the turn of the century, you would be in violation of copyright. Although the song itself is public domain, the performance on the mechanical recording is not.

          • Myoozishen

            p.s. This pertains to Copyright law in the US.

      • Djneil Philips

        Hi Jeff,
        I’m looking to release a song which is german but ive transolated the lyrics to English, will i need copyright? I think the song is a old nursery rym

        • Anonymous

          im stumped

          im going to ask George, he might know

          george?

        • http://twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

          Djneil,

          thanks for writing. a translation is considered a “derivative” work, meaning that you must go the copyright holder of the song, and get his/her approval.

          however, if, as you suggest (because you mention it’s a nursery rhyme) the song is in the public domain, meaning that it’s copyright has expired, you can freely make a translation.

          you’ll need to try to determine if the song you want to translate is in fact in the PD.  In Germany, the rule for PD is:

          25 years from first publication or first public performance if copyright has expired before such publication or performance, or if the work has never been protected in Germany and the author died more than 70 years before the first publication.

          I can’t translate the following, but perhaps you can:

          http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/urhg/__71.html

          hope this helps.

          Best,George

  • Reggaedoc

    Your theory is just plain ridiculous, sorry. Losing your publishing rights after fifty years (as is the case in Europe now) only makes it possible for small, passionate fan labels to reissue stuff that no one else would bother to reissue. Thanks to those small labels, the complete works of Django Reinhardt or Charlie Parker are now available, which they would not be if those small labels had to deal with paying rights to a hundred people and getting permission from EMI and so on. These old recordings don’t sell much anyway, and the fact is major companies like Universal don’t bother reissuing moist of the huge catalogues they’re in charge of. They concentrate on what sells most, that’s all. So forget rare calypso or thirties Chinese music or complete Big Bill Broonzy reissues. Only small labels would take the trouble to find the recordings, clean up the rare records, document them, etc.
    So music should belong to everybody after fifty years, as it does now. Furthermore because the internet is making loads of old stuff available for free all over the place. So if you trouble those small, passionate labels by asking them for more rights than they can pay for, they will not reissue the stuff at all and you’ll get nothing but lousy unrestored MP3s made from beat up sources instead of the real thing and a good sound. Anything goes on the internet, but the good guys who save, document and restore the public domain sounds should go through bureaucratic and royalties (to dead people) hassles? I don’t think so.

    • Anonymous

      @reggaedoc

      i had no theory – i explained the two sides of the argument. I am curious to learn your opinion
      jeff

      • http://thesamuelhanson.com thesamuelhanson

        Jeff, 

        No matter what the opinion is of any of these readers, you clearly have written a great piece here. The number of posts and reactions tells me that this was a subject that people cared about and that you wrote it in such a way that grabbed many people. Well done, Jeff, keep up the good work. 

        Also if anyone cares, I do believe that property is property and should be treated thus so. I don’t believe Ford became public domain after 70 years did it? =] 

        Cheers everyone 

    • Mike

      Your argument is a classic example of one of the unlimited number of arguments for or against a particular issue that can arise and can seem very reasonable but only because the underlying principle has been foregone. Society and our differences become infinitely more simple if we stand on principle. In your case you have ignored completely property rights, making your argument spurious. You don’t know what may or may not happen or what events may or may not transpire to bring works back into the light that were lost under a system that does respect property rights. In fact I would argue for the second half of your point – if property rights are retained then there would be a financial or other incentive for the future owner to release material wouldn’t there. If they had no interest, then they may not value the copyright much, and so another person could say “Hey I’ll buy that from you for a low price” and they can sell it if they don’t want it. Then it’s not theirs anymore, even if grandfather did write it. As for corporations, I think everyone would agree that their ownership *should* be limited. A corporation is not a human being, and it’s property rights especially intellectual ones such as these should indeed by limited and I think 70 years is pretty generous, so I’ll agree with you there. Corporations are entities that are state sanctioned, so it makes sense that the state does ultimately own their property, but human beings are NOT state sanctioned!

  • HatHead

    This sounds good on first look but let me ask a question. Why are grand children of Artists to be paid for something their grand parents did? These artists makes millions and make most of the music from adaptations of classical music. I am a music producer I know what I hear 95% of the music written these days are adaptations from music made in 17th, 18th and 19th century. So those artists can copy older works those works cannot be made to public domain after 70 years. That’s a very selfish idea man. 70 years is a good time. I think it should be made that.. 70 years after the release of the music piece not 70 years after the death of the last surviving writers, because people like Kieth Richards, Elton John and all will not die as no toxicity of the world can kill them :-D

    • Mike

      Why should anyone else be paid for something someone else did. Your argument makes no sense, You are judging people who haven’t been born yet as better or worse than other people who probably haven’t been born yet, and justifying your argument on that. In other words, why should the world get it – why is the collective of more value than the individual? It is the individual who makes the collective, not the other way around, so be careful how you answer that one ;-) it’s a bit more subtle than you might think at first.

      • Kale

        criminy…i’d like to get paid for the song I wrote that was ripped off by a major recording artist…she got paid bookoo for singing the chorus i wrote….copyright lawyer told me “no way to collect”. what good is a copyright if another artist can steal and then profit from it?

  • http://andrewjacksonrock.com @andrewjackson09

    I thought it was an insightful discussion and there certainly is a clash of will between the corporations and the artists as has always been the case, only now it’s spread to every corner of society and you can see the manufactured division everywhere. What artists need are corporate-minded people who are anti-corporate so that they can better market the message against the bondage, if you take my meaning. lol
    I should correct your point about the house. 
    The government DOES take control of your house as soon as you can’t afford the property taxeS. 

    • Anonymous

      good point about the house! had not thought about that

      jeff

      • Shredding

        similarly, heirs are in charge of paying all, AFTRA, ASCAP and misc union/society dues in order to receive the royalties. the more airplay you get, the bigger your dues are. and of course, income tax must be paid. if you don’t pay that, well, it’s worse than just loosing the house! ha!  :)

    • Mike

      And if that is not evidence of a system that is utterly predatory towards property instead of protecting it, then I don’t know what is. Your home man. Your HOME. They will take the food out of your mouth next if you let them. Governments have become the tools of corporations everyone knows that it just a degree of how much they understand the how and how much that is happening. The power to tax is the power to destroy. How can government give your copyrights to the collective at a specified date. We need absolute property rights recognition and protection in society and government. Then they can’t arbitrarily say, oh now it’s 20 years, or, oh now the government is broke so we’re going to take your copyright now instead of later. They do much weirder things than that for much more spurious reasons….

      • Mike

        In fact here’s another Thomas Jefferson quote: “The level of tyranny you will live under is the exact amount you put up with”. In other words, tyrants, sociopaths and psychopaths will always push it to the limit, they will go as far as you will let them. Which is to say the limits on what they can and can’t do, what they do and don’t own, must be set by the people who are the final arm of government at the end of the day. When we restrain government, we are really restraining ourselves. Protect property rights!

  • Caskland

    The idea is that an artist and their direct descendants can be rewarded financially for the work. After that it’s a gift to the general public.

    I’ve always like this idea, thought it was fair and don’t have a problem with it.

    • Mike

      Caskland: who does the giving? The artist or the state? If it’s the state, then the state presumes ownership. Then it was never property to start with but on lease from the state to you and yours for a specified period of time. Property rights are absolute or all products of human endeavor belong to the collective, or to the state. Where have I heard that before……? ;-)

  • whisper

    Totally disagree.  It is vital to the oral tradition of music for songs to enter the public domain.     Copyright protection for original music is important because it ensures the artist gets paid for his/her creation.   But by 70 years after the songwriter is dead, obviously there is no longer a living person around to collect money from the song.   The only people that could collect money from the song would be those who never had anything to do with it at all in the first place.   I usually find TuneCore articles informative and interesting, but this one was pretty worthless.

    • Anonymous

      this article has no opinion, it explains two sides of an argument, we want your opinion
      and we want you to have a voice in shaping the future of copyright law
      jeff

      • whisper

        it seemed to come across as taking the side that copyright should not expire, I’m not the only one who got that impression judging by the comments.   The article is titled “the death of your rights”.   I think its funny considering that the “you” in this scenario would already be dead for 70 years before the government takes away rights.   

        How exactly am I supposed to collect my copyright royalties from beyond the grave?   I dont get it.   The phrasing in this article makes it sound like the government is taking away a source of income from artists, but that is not true.  An artist would have to be dead for generations before the copyright expires, at which point he would have no use for the copyright because his bones have already decayed.

        • Anonymous

          @whisper

          not meaning to put you on the defensive, just interested in your opinion. I struggle with this one. If I wrote a song and it generated revenue I would want the ability to pass it on to my children or grandchildren. It is mine after all
          On the other hand, I do not want corporations (or others) controlling who has access to culture
          its an interesting argument from both sides…

          jeff

          • whisper

            I apologize if I came off too abrasive, just my opinion.  Can you imagine if somebody today claimed ownership to the rights to Beethoven’s 9th symphony?    It would prevent this piece of art from being performed and distributed in many cases because of the licensing cost.   Society would be worse off for missing out on a beautiful piece of music, just so that one lazy bum can profit from somebody else’s work created over 400 years ago, never having to compose his own music to earn a living.   Here is my advice to your grandkids, if they are still trying to exploit your mechanical copyright 70 years after you are dead.   Tell them to write their own songs, or create something of their own and they can profit from their own labor.   

          • Mike

            I wonder what Beethoven would say. Would he say “Yeah, it’s for the world after I’m gone” or maybe “I want my great great grandchildren to have it”. Do you think he would want his great great grandchild called a “lazy bum” I know I wouldn’t want my great great grandchild called that. You have to ask yourself: what right do you have to judge someone elses grandchildren and what property they have inherited from their forbears? You have no right, neither do I in regards to what you do with yours. I have faith in humanity, not government, to decide these matters. Property rights should be absolute. When you concede 1% of the principle you have conceded 100% of the principle. Of course the obvious exception to this is that if the writer knows of these laws he can specify what he wants done with the rights to a particular or all of his or her work. He can say “After I’m dead, this is public domain”. Easy. Let people have their own say. If they are persuaded by the argument “But some off spring in the future will stop you music being enjoyed by the masses because they are selfish or greedy” they can say “public domain it” or if they are persuaded by the argument “this is for me and mine” let them go that way. Maybe they can make the passing of rights conditional “rights go to my heirs but they cannot block it’s release or say how it is used, only get income from it”.

          • whisper

            If my relatives 400 years from now are trying to make their money by exploiting my labor, rather than contributing their own additions to society, I will gladly go on record as calling them lazy bums.

          • Errol Michael

            This position is contrary to the whole concept of bequest. There are wealthy families today who benefit from the industry or intellect of their forefathers. For example, Ford, Rothshild and a host of others. Property is property, whether its real estate, bonds or intellectual.

          • Mike

            hehe, and also a lot of families that aren’t ‘evil’. ;-)

          • whisper

            Actually mechanical copyrights for music compositions are not treated the same as ordinary property.   If you own a house, I cannot compel you to lease the house to me.   If you write a song, I can essentially compel you to lease me your copyright so that I can perform the song, and there is nothing you can do about it so long as I pay the compulsory licensing.   

            As much as you might like to consider a melody the same type of property as real estate, it simply isn’t.  

          • Tmcentineo

            No it wouldn’t if someone owned right to Beethoven’s 9th symphony they could pay a licensing fee the same as anyone else to record and publich this song.  It wouldn’t stop anyone from doing it unless they didn’t want to pay for the mechanical license.  Why would you want to rob someone of their work.  Shouldn’t you pay the artist to use his material.  If the family owns the rights it just means they get paid if you use the song. 

          • whisper

            I would never want to rob someone of their work.   I would like to prevent songs from hundreds of years ago that are part of our history from being bought and sold and controlled by speculators that had nothing to do with the work at all. 

            Most symphonies are barely able to sustain their operations as it is.   Add licensing cost to their expenses and likely some of them go under, you would also see less performances in general and less recording due to the increased cost.Do we have any blues or folk musicians in the house?   These genres would not exist.   

          • Caryatid Music

            And tell people living in their parents’ or grandparents’ house, or maintaining the fourth generation of a family farm or business to move out because it’s public domain now. Oh, and that goes for their grandmother’s wedding ring and family photos and works of art they bought. Those lazy bum children and grandchildren have no right to those heirlooms, either.

          • Mike

            Maybe individuals and heirs can hold copyright after the authors death if it was given to them, corporations cannot. Maybe copyright under corporations should expire after a short time, and it should then go to the next of kin, or to whoever is specified by the artist if specified, and then, if nobody is specified, it can go to the public domain. Makes sense to me. I say respect property rights entirely, only when they are utterly abandoned and no living heirs remain can it be public domain.

          • Stephenchief

            i hear that..why wouldnt it be!

          • Tmcentineo

            Jeff you should have done your homework on this article everyone in the industry knows you can transfer and maintain your copyright for 1200 years if people in your family kept renewing them!  I am surprised your editor didn’t know any better.  This looks really bad not to have known such a HUGE detail of copyright laws.

          • Anonymous

            im not trying to be argumentative or contentious, what you state is not correct.
            copyright expires and rights revert. there is no “renewing” them after the Term of copyright expires
            thus the reason why so many valuable copyrights from the past are now public domain
            jeff

    • Mike

      But the property of the copyright belongs with the writer – is it for you to say what he or she can or cannot do with it? If they leave it to their heirs, it should remain. The public has no right to anyone elses things, they can give it to who they wish. 

      • whisper

        Music has always, always, been passed down to future generations of musicians.  That is precisely how music thrives.   If you understand the history of music, you know this.

        The idea of a melody being a private possession in the first place is an arbitrary invention of our society.   We do this out of recognition that people should be paid for their work, which is only fair.   It is fair for someone to be paid for their work.   But who is the guy trying to collect on someone else’s work 70 years after the songwriter is dead?   This guy has not contributed anything to society, all he is trying to do is make himself wealthy by hoarding and exploiting a resource that he was never involved with producing. 

        What’s more, consider all the musicians that out there that make a living performing repertoire in the public domain.   To extend a mechanical copyright in perpetuity, you would be taking food off the table of these working musicians, and reallocating it to someone that has nothing to do with the creation of art, and has done no work to earn the money.  

        The type of changes you guys are talking about making to copyright would be an enormous tragedy for musicians and the people that care about music in general

    • Shredding

      as a songwriter who has had a few radio hits and supports a family of 4 largely in part by quarterly royalty checks, i will say, Hell Yes, i want my children and their children to receive ownership in my intelectual property just like they will receive ownership in my tangible property upon my passing. as for future generations being lazy bums, i can only hope that the parents following me will follow in my and my wife’s footsteps in teaching the children the importance of responsibility and following one’s passion and dreams. but, a little financial support from a grandfather’s creation can’t hurt…

      you hear all the time about heirs to great inventors like “the guy who invented the paper clip”, or the sponge or whatever…. patent law is very different from copyright law and maybe we should compare the differences in terms of residual income to the inventor/composer… 

       i dont see why a song should be treated any differently than any other invention in terms of residual compensation.

      • Tamekomichelle

        Shredding you are protected!  Just make sure you have your estate transfer the copyright to the person you wish to have a say in your music upon your death.  As long as your family keeps up with the expiration date and submits a continuation of copyright you can maintain your copyright forever!  I am a songwriter as well who wishes to keep my rights….. 

        • whisper

          This is not true.   His songs will enter the public domain 70 years after he dies.   However, that means the youngest of his children would be at least 70 years old by the time the copyright expires.  So that is plenty of time for the kids and grandkids to be provided for by that song.  

      • Whisper

        Patents expire also, you know that right?    In most countries the term for patents is 20 years, after which the invention becomes part of the public domain.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Term_of_patent_in_the_United_States

    • Tamekomichelle

      Hey what about the children of the artists.  The copyright can be renewed for hundreds of years and top artists such as Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra Elvis Presley they all had their estates transfer their songs to a relative. Lisa Maria got Elvis’ Unforgettable was assigned to Natalie Cole.  It is only those who don’t know any better that end up with their songs public domain. It is the same as any inheritance they can be passed down to the children of the artists who wrote them.

    • Sincereblakpoet

      negative !!! What are you talking about ? So what if justin beiber lives to be 84 ?  That’s 70 years before his offsprings see a dime . NOTE *** ANYTIME ANOTHER GROUP OF PEOPLE SET THE RULES AND STANDARDS ON BEHALF OF AN UNREPRESENTED PARTY , IT USUALLY ENDS IN SOME TYPE OF EXPLOITATION ! Check history !!! The answer is obvious , WHAT’S MINE IS MINE WHATS URS IS URS !!!  It’s mine to will or leave to whoever

  • Adetc

    On the other hand, I just wish the brilliant Hank Williams’ copyrights had never bequeathed a dime to his horrible no-talent child.

  • Giantgigantic

    Hello   In Their world  they  want  TOTAL GOVERNMENT CONTROL     
    GOVERNMENTS ARE SICKER THAN THE SICK ! 

    GG 

    • Mike

      However governments are necessary for some things, (until and unless we evolve beyond that organically). Anarchy is just as bad as collectivism / oligarchy because anarchy always leads to oligarchy. People form government to guard *against* oligarchy / plutocracy / collectivism. One of the proper functions of government is in fact to protect property rights. They aren’t doing that of course, and are doing the exact opposite, which is why most people in the world aren’t happy with governments, but that is what they are supposed to do. If they would do that, like for example taxing a property you own means you don’t own it – so there is an obvious breach of contract with the people. But copyright is a property right – therefore it is proper that government should protect it. But I don’t want them searching people’s laptops / ipods and underpants at airports and train stations for it. There is a limit to what the government can enforce of course. Individual liberty is also to be protected by government. You can’t justify removing everyone’s individual liberty and right to privacy for something that is unenforceable. 

  • Patrick Reagin

    The reason for copyright having a limited term is because it extends much much much further beyond the very limited scope of recorded music. Imagine if Einstein were still entitled to exclude people from the theory of relativity (or any important scientific theorem, discovery, etc not eligible for patent protection). Copyright dates back to the Constitutional era (which I’m sure I don’t need to point out was before the era of recorded music).
     Also, the fact that creative work is at its very essence based upon the reinterpretation of past ideas, this would put some pretty extreme limits on the development of music itself. Finally, the date of copyright transfer has been consistently pushed back every time it has come close to passing in the modern era largely based upon lobbying pressure from large corporations who stand to benefit, like Disney. The fact that it extends 70 years beyond the life of the author means that no authors are at any sort of risk of loss of value. I agree that this post is basically lacking in substance and introduced with a pretty hyperbolic sensationalist title.

    • Anonymous

      @ patrick

      i like the title, what’s not true about it?

      As far as substance, it explains copyright law, public domain and asks for your opinion.
      i appreciate that you offered one. Perhaps readers are used to me picking a side. On this one, I am interested to learn what others think.
      jeff

  • Gotchamusic

    hello, I.m BMI songwriter, I have some very good songs. Songs that would have been popular & profitible if
    they had a chance to be heard in the media. i’m sure alot of your readers feel this way also. i’d like to see the copyright laws doubled to 140 years. That gives my grandchildren a chance to make a few dollars on grandpa’s music.What’s wrong with that?

    Peace,
    Steve Willoughby

    • Mike

      Private property means ownership. You do not own something if someone can take it away from you. Like your house – you think you own it (if you have a house) but you don’t. Property taxes mean if you don’t pay they will “take you s**t” so to speak. So you don’t own it. The governments of the world today have NO respect for private property. They are in administration of the public, and they work for the most ultra protected, anti-competitive fraud industry of all, the banking, and more so, specifically the central banking industry. A coddled, revolving door scenario. So I agree with you man, if you own it, then it’s fricken YOURS. WHO has the right to take it? ?? 

  • Ramona Desalvo

    This information is so wrong!  Copyrights last for life of the last surviving author plus 70 years, then it goes into the public domain and is no longer protected by copyright.  Works for hire last 95 or 120 years and then go to the public domain.  Songwriters can terminate any copyright transfer (as long as it is not a work for hire) after 35 years from publication or 40 years from the date of the grant to a publisher.  The songwriter then gets his songs back and he and his family can benefit from them for the remaining life of the copyright – 70 years after the last co-author dies.  Moreover, songwriters license songs to record labels; they don’t transfer ownership.  The recording of the song is transferred to the label because the label takes the risk and puts up all of the money.  Please do not spread such misinformation.

    • http://twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

      Here is the information, right from the US Code:

      TITLE 17 > CHAPTER 3 > § 302§ 302. DURATION OF COPYRIGHT: WORKS CREATED ON OR AFTER JANUARY 1, 1978(a) In General.— Copyright in a work created on or after January 1, 1978, subsists from its creation and, except as provided by the following subsections, endures for a term consisting of the life of the author and 70 years after the author’s death.

      (b) Joint Works.— In the case of a joint work prepared by two or more authors who did not work for hire, the copyright endures for a term consisting of the life of the last surviving author and 70 years after such last surviving author’s death.

      (c) Anonymous Works, Pseudonymous Works, and Works Made for Hire.— In the case of an anonymous work, a pseudonymous work, or a work made for hire, the copyright endures for a term of 95 years from the year of its first publication, or a term of 120 years from the year of its creation, whichever expires first. If, before the end of such term, the identity of one or more of the authors of an anonymous or pseudonymous work is revealed in the records of a registration made for that work under subsections (a) or (d) of section 408, or in the records provided by this subsection, the copyright in the work endures for the term specified by subsection (a) or (b), based on the life of the author or authors whose identity has been revealed. Any person having an interest in the copyright in an anonymous or pseudonymous work may at any time record, in records to be maintained by the Copyright Office for that purpose, a statement identifying one or more authors of the work; the statement shall also identify the person filing it, the nature of that person’s interest, the source of the information recorded, and the particular work affected, and shall comply in form and content with requirements that the Register of Copyrights shall prescribe by regulation.

      I’m glad you brought up the 35 yr reversion. thank you.

      here is the language from the code:

      § 203. Termination of transfers and licenses granted by the author3(a) Conditions for Termination. — In the case of any work other than a work made for hire, the exclusive or nonexclusive grant of a transfer or license of copyright or of any right under a copyright, executed by the author on or after January 1, 1978, otherwise than by will, is subject to termination under the following conditions:(1) In the case of a grant executed by one author, termination of the grant may be effected by that author or, if the author is dead, by the person or persons who, under clause (2) of this subsection, own and are entitled to exercise a total of more than one-half of that author’s termination interest. In the case of a grant executed by two or more authors of a joint work, termination of the grant may be effected by a majority of the authors who executed it; if any of such authors is dead, the termination interest of any such author may be exercised as a unit by the person or persons who, under clause (2) of this subsection, own and are entitled to exercise a total of more than one-half of that author’s interest.(2) Where an author is dead, his or her termination interest is owned, and may be exercised, as follows:(A) The widow or widower owns the author’s entire termination interest unless there are any surviving children or grandchildren of the author, in which case the widow or widower owns one-half of the author’s interest.(B) The author’s surviving children, and the surviving children of any dead child of the author, own the author’s entire termination interest unless there is a widow or widower, in which case the ownership of one-half of the author’s interest is divided among them.(C) The rights of the author’s children and grandchildren are in all cases divided among them and exercised on a per stirpes basis according to the number of such author’s children represented; the share of the children of a dead child in a termination interest can be exercised only by the action of a majority of them.(D) In the event that the author’s widow or widower, children, and grandchildren are not living, the author’s executor, administrator, personal representative, or trustee shall own the author’s entire termination interest.(3) Termination of the grant may be effected at any time during a period of five years beginning at the end of thirty-five years from the date of execution of the grant; or, if the grant covers the right of publication of the work, the period begins at the end of thirty-five years from the date of publication of the work under the grant or at the end of forty years from the date of execution of the grant, whichever term ends earlier.(4) The termination shall be effected by serving an advance notice in writing, signed by the number and proportion of owners of termination interests required under clauses (1) and (2) of this subsection, or by their duly authorized agents, upon the grantee or the grantee’s successor in title.(A) The notice shall state the effective date of the termination, which shall fall within the five-year period specified by clause (3) of this subsection, and the notice shall be served not less than two or more than ten years before that date. A copy of the notice shall be recorded in the Copyright Office before the effective date of termination, as a condition to its taking effect.(B) The notice shall comply, in form, content, and manner of service, with requirements that the Register of Copyrights shall prescribe by regulation.(5) Termination of the grant may be effected notwithstanding any agreement to the contrary, including an agreement to make a will or to make any future grant.(b) Effect of Termination. — Upon the effective date of termination, all rights under this title that were covered by the terminated grants revert to the author, authors, and other persons owning termination interests under clauses (1) and (2) of subsection (a), including those owners who did not join in signing the notice of termination under clause (4) of subsection (a), but with the following limitations:

      Best,George

    • Myoozishen

      Ramona, if a writer assigns their publishig right to a label or any other entitiy, they essentially lose control of their rights. They will still see income from the writer’s portion of broadcast royalties but not the publishing income AND to the point, would actually have no right to license the song to any other entity unless specified in their publishing agreement. The publisher has the ultimate control.

  • Bob

    If there was no expiration big corporations would just by up all your songs for a dime (they still do).
    This actually sounds like something the corporations are behind.
    Has anybody noticed that the only oldies that get any advertising revenue or put in movies etc, are songs no longer in the hands of the artist? 

    • Mike

      I agree definitely be careful of corporations being behind any reforms. They always put their unwelcome 2c worth in there.

    • Playhouze

      Exactly case and point!

  • Ashley Christine

    Though provoking

  • burningfields

    A tiny bit off topic but after what iTunes has done to us money-wise and now Spotify, it’s almost like what difference does it make. We now make so little, barely anything really, compare to before. People think Steve Jobs and iTunes is so great, but in my opinion this has done more harm than good. Big time. And now people can listen to your album in it’s entirety and you get fractions of fractions of a cent from this. It has killed us. So I read this article and think ‘yeah, but…’  Again a little off topic I know. Thanks for letting me vent.  

    • Anonymous

      i hear you

      on the flip side, in the old industry, over 98% of artists never got paid their $1.50 per unit band royalty at all as they did not recoup the advance given to them to record the music that they then assigned over to the label
      at least in this new age, artists are getting money when their money sells. In the old model, they didnt
      jeff

      • Mike

        I can get my music on itunes through tunecore for a few dollars, no record company, no publisher, no nothing. I can just do it. I like that.

  • Patricia

    I do not like the Government getting into every aspect of our life. We the people need to put in laws to
    protect us. The Government has put is so many laws that we have to abide by why not have laws for
    them by the people paying all the bills? I think we should be allowed to keep our copy writes forever.
    Why do I feel this way, I wrote the songs and I would like to do what I want with them. It should not be
    the Governments business to tell us  what to do. I love your article and I agree with your concept..
    Patricia

    • Mike

      Governments role should be strictly limited to the protection of life, liberty, property, just weights and measures, border defense, electoral process, enforcement of voluntary contracts, and protecting the marketplace from corruption, coercion, anti-competitive behavior and other criminal and corrupt activities, so that the honest trader, product or service has a voice and a presence, no matter how small. Prescribing morality, regulating the individual to within an inch of his or her life, is the opposite of that.

    • whisper

      LOL.   You are aware that the government is the only entity which enforces copyright correct?   if the government were to stay out of your business, you would have no copyright at all.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Derick-Smith/100000648636302 Derick Smith

    BIRDY IS RIGHT

  • Paul E Tek

    I think once the artist dies thier will should determine if their work becomes public domain or transfers to an heir, but once that heir dies it should become public domain. If it’s not stipulated in the will then their work should automatically become public domain. In any case the original artist(s) should always be credited in the notes of the derivative works. I also believe that complete ownership of a copyright should only be transferable via the above (original to single heir) and can only be licensed to third parties for use

    • Mike

      Yep, principled, whole adherence and respect to property rights is the simple answer. Stand on principle, a lot of complicated arguments become unnecessary. We accept with faith for better or worse the standing on principles, in other words. I think it’s a sound way to uphold society.

    • Shredding

      my will states that all my copyrights, master recordings and other intelectual property transfers to my two sons. according to your point, how do you factor in grandchildren? 

  • Mike

    I think it was Thomas Jefferson who said “The government cannot give anything it has not first taken”. In that case, property rights are included. Maybe a better title therefore for the article is “The government taketh away, the government giveth, the government giveth less than before, the government taketh, and does not giveth any more”…

    • Anonymous

      LOL

      jeff

  • Felton “Kapital” Brown

    Wow our great government SMH

  • Music4picture

    With a new generation feeling entitled to their music being free, this won’t be relevant for that much longer anyway. Unless something changes and creators of value are thought of as deserving of being paid for their work again. We see now what happens when no one wants to pay and creators who would have been passed on by labels now can release their creations anyway. Lots of free stuff and most of it crap. Why not discuss that? I make my living from royalties.

  • tonya

    As a singer/songwriter I’m glad to see this post and it brings up crucial points. Makes me think about the future of the songs I am writing today. Perhaps my children and their children should continue to re-copyright (based on the previous registration) and then the copyright would never expire.

  • D. Gilbert

    It’s, especially, onerous if a “long-lost” song is discovered after the copyright time bomb detonates.  The song becomes hugely popular, the label at cohorts reap the rewards; and the artist, heirs, and assigns get diddley.

    D. Gilbert

  • http://jonahrank.livejournal.com/ Jonah Rank

    Thanks so much for writing this! I have often wondered about this… especially considering how frequently songwriters gain popularity after their deaths.

    I don’t see any good reason that a government should determine it has been “long enough.” The songwriters’ estate should be able to inherit profits from a song as long as the song is still something for which people are willing to spend money.

  • Zootsuitbeatnick

    I disagree.
    There are at least as many reason to allow copyright protections to pass as there are to make them permanent.

  • GaSongWriters

    Our songs should be ours to be handed down from generation to generation. Never to end the copyrights. 

  • Rob Roberts

    I think as long as there are family members alive that can collect royalties, then they should be able to do so. People have family that go on for hundreds of years. generation after generation.

    • Mike

      Or maybe the artist passed it to his or her lover or spouse, or adopted child, or to a charity. They are free to have done so.

  • Mail

     (don’t laugh too hard, there was a moment not too long ago when Bill Gates was worth a trillion dollars)

    Where did you learn your math:)

    • Anonymous

      article ran about 12 years ago when Microsoft was riding high on the stock market
      if I recall correctly, it indicated the net worth of Bill Gates due to the % of Microsoft he owned, and his other assets, was one trillion dollars
      jeff

  • Donald Patriquin

    A rather useless, futile ‘argument’ that really goes nowhere or presents any answers. If you don;t want Mozart’s ‘grandchildren’ to be paid for something he created then what are you actually arguing for – other than for the sake of arguing/!

    dp

    • Anonymous

      not sure if your comment is directed at me, but if so, I am not arguing one side or the other. I am interested in getting other people’s opinion on this topic
      jeff

  • A. P. Brittain

    I wish tunecore wasn’t so blatantly pro-copyright biased. It’s crass and distasteful at best to wright BS fluff articles that passive-aggressively extol the virtues of copyrights against the “unruly internet and evil public domain.” When the site and it’s editors publish pieces like this, it sends a very strong and specific message to all those other tunecore artists who are pro-copyleft/pro-CC/counter-IP/alter-IP in their dealings: “tunecore is a place for close minded greed and value extortion.You hippie-commies are not wanted here.”

    I guess what I’m saying is that tunecore offers a fundamentally love-hate relationship. It’s a great way to distribute your independent music, but on the same token, tunecore is also a shady legal pseudo-advocacy organisation that is ready and willing to help some of it’s more money-focused member extract every little last bit of sell-out money from the cultural economy

    • Anonymous

      @AP Brittain

      The purpose of this article is to get other people’s opinion on the topic.
      I can easily argue both sides, but seeing as I do not have the talent to be a musician, I thought it more important to learn what the creators thought.
      In regards to copyright, these are your rights, not mine, and you should be able to do what you like with them – and I will fight tooth and nail for you to have control over them. If you want to give your music and/or rights away or sell your music, that’s your choiche to make, not someone else’s
      jeff

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=702373429 Eddie Threat

    You blew it on the analogy. The government can take away your home, and you never actually own your home. you have to pay property taxes. your house could be 100% paid off, full and clear, but if you don’t pay the property taxes, they will place a lien and sell your house. Not hyperbole, not paranoia, not conspiracy, thats reality. 

    • Anonymous

      its a good point about the house, but thats really not the point of the article.
      i am interested to learn what people think on this topic

      jeff

      • Mike

        It goes to the core of property rights. Ownership is an absolute, or not at all. Our forbears understood this, going back at least to the Magna Carta. There were always people willing to take other’s property away, and these things were reasoned out very well by great minds. Some of those old philosophers knew their stuff, and time tested principles tend to not change with the ages, cultures, empires, generations. Human rights especially. Property ownership is a human right and it’s an absolute one, just like the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In other words, there is a deeper more fundamental principle at stake here, if we go to the root of it, and argue out the principle and sure up our understanding of it, then the copyright argument becomes infinitely more simplified. If you stand on principle, many, many complex arguments vanish and life becomes a lot simpler – if you stand on principle.

  • Arnold

    By the time any of our songs become public domain, this world and it’s laws may be an entirely different place as we may be very well dealing with universal laws established by the The United Federation of Planets. I therefore trust that this will be a much fairer deal for our halfbreed alien offspring as the governments of this world (acting on behalf of their constituents) will not have as much power to mess things up as they have so far in just about every aspect of our lives. My post makes total sense right?

  • Kashamakkarecords

    joseph green grindsman just need to know how can i be of help to change the system i ave been rob of my royalty day heen day out producers and publishers own the rights of my author recently adejah palmer vybz kartel revoice my song benz punaney i wrote it 23 years ago and up until now performing rights in england say i never join mechanical rights there is nothing them can do for me to collect my royalties every organoisation is a scam,

    • Mike

      Sounds like you’re a victim of the “property rights aren’t absolute” doctrine that we have these days. No organisation should be able to rob you of your rights because you *didn’t* act, or failed to act. They are inherent. That is not the same as actively waiving or failing to act when you had knowledge of the fact you should act.

  • Loaded

    The article is good…just look at the comment thread.
    Mission accomplished:)

  • Kashamakkarecords

    jeff who feels it knows it that is so right if the author died that royalty should go to their children n their children children if is so be the case from 1985 am getting my records release for various producers i cant say i get 20 or 30 jamaican thousand one time as royalty all my rights been shearing out to who don’t even know me in person  they are all lier and thief tune can only outdated because of style real culture and everyday living song release all twenty years after it record,

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_XCHPZJ52ANZKLBVZRPB6L62YKM Wolfduke

    go on…

  • Smellygrrl

    Why the hell Is it so important for someone uninvolved with the music to be able to make money off it 70 years after the writer dies (or longer if you had your way)???

    Why should the estate of John Lennon continue to make money off his songs? His estate contributed nothing to the music.

    Copyright should protect the creator, not every hanger-on who entered his or her life.

    70 years after the writer’s death is already too long.

    • Shredding

      because belongings and assets are traditionally passed down through family members.  :)

    • Mike

      Because property rights must be absolute or they are not rights at all and the state and the collective therefore own them from the get go, and you are just getting a 70 year lease to your estate after death. Ownership is absolute, or it’s not ownership. Plus you are arguing against yourself: you’re saying why should people 70 years after be able to make money off the estate? You want people to be able to make money off it – by performing it, re-recording it, etc. So you’re *really* saying that some people should make money off it, not others. You don’t even know them, let alone the fact that you have no actual *right* to decide for others just as they should have no right to decide for you. Another way of putting it, your mother leaves you a million dollars. There are plenty of people out there who would say “hey, why shouldn’t I have some of that, – why shouldn’t we all have all of that! Let the state take it /tax it (same thing).” Right? and you’ll say “Because it’s *mine*, and you’d be right. Now the state does take money when people inherit it, that’s called death taxes, and yes I agree, it’s evil. It presumes the state has a right to our labour and energy while we are living. Whether they demand it now or later, is immaterial except for political expediency. They take it. That is the slippery slope to collectivism where the state’s rights outrank the individual and we already have that certainly in most of the west. It must be reversed. Property rights are an absolute. It’s no different if your mother passes you that million dollars in cash, or the rights to music that makes a million dollars for you and yours over the next 150 years or more.

  • Rydstrom

    That was pointless. “Dr. Evil”? Come on.

    • Anonymous

      i like dr, evil. makes me laugh

      jeff

  • Kallahann Shaw

    Just another was to take from the creators

  • Guitarman22

    You think it would stay with the family of the writer

  • Tunesmith

    I have about thirty five copyrighted songs. No one wants to publish them now so maybe someone will have better luck with them 70years after I’m gone. Good luck to my survivors!

  • http://www.a-lyric.com/ Anonymous

    I’m actually revamping a very interesting public domain catalogue right now, so I have a vested interest in this 70-year thing. Look at it another way: if after two generations, the heirs have not worked out how to monetise the estate themselves, there’s no hope for them! I see Hank Williams’ heirs are recording songs using his lyrics, for example. Jacques Brel’s family are also very active as publishers and creators of new content (books, a museum, tours, etc). There is nothing to stop the Beethoven family from creating recordings with the extra added value of his offspring playing lead guitar (or whatever).

    It’s an interesting debate, but I must say that there is already enough resistance to copyright without making it eternal. Folk and classical music have grown out of previous generations’ music, for example. John Lennon used a traditional tune for “War is Over” (“Snowball”, “Snowflake” – I can’t remember off-hand).

    To answer another question, there is also a limit on the copyright of sound recordings. Expect lots of activity when Elvis, the Gershwins, Mickey Mouse and others are up for grabs.

    Personally, I wish someone would do something to revive the careers of Laurel & Hardy and Buster Keaton. Pass the buck to someone that is willing to invest in them.

  • Paulproudlove

    some wise people are doing the crime ahead of time 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=702329324 Mark Saltzer

    Just goes to show you music is worth more than money. 70 years after I die, it should be the next day. I would prefer my music getting heard by millions of people before I die, rather than dying with millions of dollars in my bank account.

    • Mike

      That’s your free choice just like it is another’s free choice to see it differently. That’s the beauty of freedom. When we think we know better for others, that limits human creative potential, and sews the seeds of our destruction as a culture / society.

  • Reggaedoc

    The recently voted European law changing the public domain from 50 years to 70 years for audio recordings is preposterous. Those who have collected this stuff will be dead after 70 years, and will therefore not be able to share their knowledge and collection in any decent way, like a CD. So the stuff will be dispersed and the documentation and collections lost. You will eventually find some scattered, unrestored, just more lousy MP3s on the internet. It is a disaster for the human musical legacy. Like someone wriote here, why not write your next post on the hidden plethora of valuable historic American  music that isn’t released because of outdated and overextended copyright laws preventing valuable culture from seeing the light of day?

    • Tamekomichelle

      Listen guys your copyright remains with you as long as someone in your family keeps it maintained.  Towards the end when it is soon to expire someone on your behalf has to renew the copyright on ith then you will retain your rights.  You can’t do it your dead but you can transfer it to someone before you die who then takes control over what happens to your songs.  They can tranfer the songs to their next of kin and so on and so on the government is not taking anything from us the songwriter Jeff doesn’t have all the facts!  This article is just stirring the pot and is not really the situation.

      • Anonymous

        im sorry, what you state is not correct

        one cannot transfer copyrights to another person who then “re-registers” them thus circumventing expiration of copyright

  • Damon

    How would it be if you built an apartment building and 75 years after your death the government took it away from your grandchildren? Copyright should last forever. End of story. 

    • Mike

      Exactly and the whole point is that it’s not up to some faceless majority to decide. It’s up to the individual to decide what to do with their property rights. If that means to pass it on, then so be it. Otherwise in effect the presumption here is that government owns the rights from the moment you create something, therefore they own YOU. That’s called slavery and it’s not a good thing for creativity.

  • SoH

    Howdy – I think the rights should be unlimited in time. The song was created by you, and that ownership should be transferrable to who you (or your estate) sees fit. Why be too mindful of the “Dr Evil” corporation side of the argument? If you, or your spawn, sell the rights to a corporation or Dr Evil, it is not rational for them to behave in a manner to extinguish culture by attempting to buy all copyrights. We can create an unlimited supply of additional music anyway! It would be futile for them, and good business for us!

  • archie

    The answer is simple. The artist made the music. It should be up to him or her what happens to it not the effing government. How would politicians feel if we took away there house 70 years after they died. Not real pleased I imagine. It shouldn’t be any different!!!

    • Mike

      Good point but you are too generous of the parasites: I think you will find that they are not prepared to wait 70 years when it comes to a house – 6 months to a year I give it in most cases! Here’s a good one: Politics – poli (many) tics (blood suckers).

  • Reggaedoc

    It’s all easy and utopic to say “the artist should decide what happens to his music after he dies”. But you see, the artist does not decide, he dies without saying anything (think that Bob Marley left no will), the law is applied no matter what he thought anyway, and the competent people to reissue it decently cannot do it. They will have to get permission from Universal Music (who doesn’t reissue one hundredth of what they control) ot whoever, from the artist’s heirs, the producer’s heirs, a complete nightmare that prevents millions of great recordings from being issued. That is why we had to wait for so long to FINALLY see a complete Charlie Parker series in the making (thanks to the current public domain law, now threatened by the new European law). It’s outrageous. And what’s even more preposterous is that uncompetent bootleggers will put it out and scatter it on the net in bad quality, unrestored MP3 files, competing with the decent labels who don’t sell much anyway. So nobody is going to trouble the internet file sharers (who will also share the restored files from the quality reissues anyway - who don’t need this extra competition by the way), but those who could reissue it decently will get all the hassles – and will not do it in the end because of this. Nonsense! Culture genocide!

    • Mike

      Yeah I think that corporations ownership should absolutely be limited. They cannot have the same right as a human because they are theoretically immoral and look what is happening with property rights skewed in the favour of corporations – they are taking over the world. So yeah definitely limitations on corporate ownership. In the case the rights are abandoned, then yes the government could pick that up – making it public domain.

      • Mike

        Sorry I meant theoretically immortal but immoral applies too!

  • Tamekomichelle

    This is not true what you say about all songs end up in public domain.  You must renew your copyright that’s all.  When you get older you can even transfer the copyright to your estate or relatives.  Check it out and you will see what I say is so.

    • http://twitter.com/gah650 George Howard

      this is not accurate.

      please show your source.

      Thanks,George

  • Tmcentineo

    Do you think Michael Jackson would have paid so much money for the copyright to the Beatle’s songs just to have them become public domain??  No but you must renew the copyright after I think 20 years.  If you do they will never become public domain it is as another post states if you abandon the songs and don’t keep up with renewing them (same with corporations) then you will lose the copyright making them public.  The only difference is with patents such as drug patents.  They become public to cut the cost by allowing generic brands to hit the market.  Good for us since the drug companies make billions a year in profit! 

    • Mike

      But drug companies almost always pirate molecules found in nature and synthetically generate them so it is harder for the establishment to justify ongoing rights to things that really shouldn’t be allowed to be patented anyway – so they are really compromising there for a reason – to cover up something else. I agree health should be cheap, get the corporations out of owning molecules and out of lobbying and writing the healthcare legislation and all that. Same goes for copyright law – the corporations lobby for what they want behind our backs constantly and put any amount of money into getting what they want as they see fit. It’s got to stop.

  • Keith Stancil

    Great post! If copyrights did belong to the owner for perpetuity, the value of music would definitely increase in value both monetarily and in the public’s mind. 

  • cragi morrison

    can’t industry lobbyists from Grammy , tunecore , cdc baby, bmi or ascap help to protest the composers like myself?

    Craig Morrison
    http://www.roundtownsound.com

    • Craig

      on behalf of the composers against interests that want our rights….

  • Simmons Imogene

    Interesting! I agree that the government should be involved in some things to create and maintain justice, but their decisions should not affect just-us without our input.

  • http://twitter.com/gopalo PALO!

    The US constitution: Congress shall have the power… “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for
    limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their
    respective Writings and Discoveries.” FOR LIMITED TIMES seem to be the key words here.

  • Scott Christopher

    Whats Mine is Mine or my family’s  and to be used as I see fit to continue the to provide inspiration to new,current and future artists and listeners abroad

  • Azngo555

    this is kevin, 
    so when i produce a music out there and fill out the information that is said, thats the form of copyright is it? then upload my wav form there and its on iTunes copyrighted by my name on it right? what if the person who sang it do I put there name on the artist or mine, because I didn’t sing it, but I produced the music and lyrics, what do i put then?

    • Anonymous

      @azngo555

      the minute you create the song and make it tangible, you get the copyrights. you dont need to do anything else
      this explains it. Its a good short animated video on the basics of your copyrights – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMvhjwwzcQg

    • Myoozishen

      You need to have anyone performing on your song sign a performance release. If it is on iTunes and you make a few bucks, it’s highly unlikely the singer will go after you for releasing a song with their performance on it BUT (and I have seen this bite SO many in the butt) IF you license that song to a tv show or it becomes a theme for a show or placed in a film or gets on the radio it’s very likely that your buddy will say “Hey, wait a minute… that guy is making a (presumed) load of money from a song with MY voice on it and I’m still working my crummy day job…”. The performers do not get any of your copyright BUT you must have an agreement with them that protects you and, if it’s a fair agreement and available, protects them as well. Trust me, I have seen it happen with trusting colleagues who had verbal agreements they could not prove later in court. The joy of finally having great success gets ruined once litigation comes into play.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Shotta-Zulu/100001915609773 Shotta Zulu

    THe legacy of any artist either music, paint, etc… should always stay with their decendents and not corporate hounds.  Another example of how the “Wealthy” stay richer than anyone else and even success can bring worries to the “Common Man”

  • Brian

    Agree with other folks that this article frames the argument in a negative way for public domain, even if it is trying to be neutral.  It failed at that, sorry.
    As for my opinion, I think that the public domain is important for culture and for democracy.

  • Skyskrappa

    To me, your copywrites should be passed down to the last descendant in your immediate family.This insures that my works continue to support my kids,grandkids,greatgrand kids.If your a musician or an artist, this is the only way to leave your family income from the years of hard work you put in over the years

  • http://www.thetrevorpanshow.com The Trevor Pan Show

    Having graduated from the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, the mention of a home not being taken away missed the idea that an architectural copyright is based on the design – not the stone quarried nearby or the cantilevered patios.  That analogy misses the copyright issue.  In such a case, others may build Fallingwater if they were so inclined – after the copyright expires, not prior.  

    Relating it to music, the government does not take the physical master away – just the right to exploit it for a given period.

    With the economy as it is, I’ve gone back to school for music composition, and have developed a new concept for musical and other copyright holders – in addition to my new compositions.

    Why not create an entity that oversees both copyrights still in effect (where artists may will or pledge certain self-determined % of their monies) and (perhaps) a way for those who use creative common music to send portions of their monies earned from expired copyrights such that this entity returns money back into the community for musicians, artists, etc. (it may even make them feel obligated to contribute a portion)

    With public schools {cuttin’ tha programs}, I think ‘art funding art’ is perhaps more productive than anything I’ve read or heard about – this post and elsewhere.  

    Thus, the answer to the post has not been had…  

    But re-working, re-recording, re-anything with older music still is work – and should be paid for – IF people are willing to pay for it.  Life is hardly fair, but if others in the future can profit on the works it only perpetuates them.

    “The Artist’s Work”, or whatever the above mentioned entity would be called might be a handsome alternative for creators to handle/utilize their copyrighted works during life or after.  It’s not good to give anyone to much wealth, in my opinion as I’ve received an inheritance which is now expired, as it stifles their need to be productive.

    Make something.

    -Trevor Pan

  • Penuckle

    Why is it so bad to think that someone in your family can continue to feed their family from your work.  Unless of course you have bad relations, or are just plain greedy.  So what if someone wants to use an old symphonic song from a few hundred years ago?  Reall, so?  Alot of songwriters are antisocial and have a horrible view of the world around them, they’re stale and stuffy.  I know plenty of them, i’m a songwriter myself…with actual royalties.  There are only 12 notes so we’re all bound to step on each others creative notes anyway.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to bash anyone, but the reasond i’ve read that are against the “70″ years all seem to be of selfish origin, people getting very defensive, instead of pontificating.

  • Reggaedoc

    This is so silly. People down here don’t know what they’re talking about. The public domain law in Europe allows anyone to issue recordings over 50 years old. This only concerns the recording. It does NOT affect the songwriting. If a European label releases any songs recorded before 1961, it will have to pay whoever wrote the tune like it does for any other record. The music publishing royalty is not concerned by this. The ‘public domain’ concept is only about the recording itself. Of course record labels should be allowed to issue old recordings, because those who originally owned the recordings (the likes of Sony or Universal) DON’T reissue most of them at all. I work for Frémeaux, a label that does reissue old music. They pay the songwriters (BMI, Ascap, Sacem…), but why should they be paying whoever owns the actual old recording today? They can’t afford it anyway. So do you really want this stuff to be lost forever? Or perhaps it will surface on cheap MP3s on Youtube or something. Is this the future of the world’s music legacy? Undocumented, unrestored, lousy MP3s? If a recording can be posted on the net for free, why can’t a record label be allowed to issue it properly? Obviously it should. This is just ridiculous. And now they are voting a law that will make public domain in Europe 70 years instead of 50? What a shame.

  • Billystertz

    This article is written based on a misunderstanding of both the purpose copyright law and the function of the public domain.  It labors under the notion that copyright exists to protect the artist, when in fact the Constitution mandates that Congress “secure for LIMITED times” rights in authors (read musicians in this context) in order “to promote the progress of science and the useful arts.”  SEE U.S. Cons. Art. I sec. 8 cl. 8.  While there are some natural rights underpinnings to copyright, U.S. copyright law is essentially utilitarian.  It is in the public’s interest to have a robust public domain, because the public domain reintroduces competition to the copyright monopoly (making access to works cheaper for consumers) and allows later artists to use and build on public domain works (creating new generations of good art).  We should be asking why copyright terms are so long, not questioning the value of the public domain.

    • Anonymous

      @billystertz

      i disagree. this article was written without choosing a position but explaining both sides. I am more interested in learning your, and others, opinion on this topic
      jeff

  • Tired Giant

    Nothing is yours unless the government says it is. Not your house, not your car, not your savings. It’s called “imminent domain”. They can take it all @ anytime. The Constitution claims with regards to rights and freedoms that “We hold these truths to be self evident”. That’s a fairy tale like Santa Claus & the Easter Bunny. History shows us that might crushes right and then gets crushed by other might or plagues or earthquakes or meteors and then there’s a new concept of might & right and it starts all over again. The only thing that stays the same is the fact that all of our rights are in flux all the time. Yes, it sucks. Change what you can, while you can, but don’t expect any of it to last. Even the Pyramids are half covered in sand. Someday they will be gone altogether.

  • http://www.tearsofmagdalena.com/news Magdalena Lee

    People, who appreciate and buy intellectual property more than physical property, they are will stop the apocalypse….

  • Lord Hong

    I hear what you’re saying but yes, I’d rather my spoiled lil great grandkids get my royalties than Amazon and a bunch of selfish lawyers. But I’m a bit more concernd of Tunecore raising their rates 150%….

    • Anonymous

      @lord hong

      Forgive the cut and paste, but …

      TuneCore has to work for you. It cannot be what I think should work for you. You are the customer, I am here to serve you. Your opinions are, by default, right, as they are your opinions. As you can imagine, I could not disagree with you more.
      As you have been extremely honest and open with me, I hope you dont mind me being honest back.
      When I started TuneCore 5 1/2 years ago, it was the first time any artist could gain access to distribution, keep all their rights, get all their money. I made the pricing up while I was taking a shower. It used to be $7.98 per release per year + $0.99 a song + $0.99 for each store you wanted to the release to go to. As I added more stores, the price started to climb. It did not feel like it to people as it was a-la-carte, but they were paying more than we charge now. Over the years I fiddled with other pricing trying to keep costs down while improving the system. I added more al-la-carte, and then people were paying over $65 on average. It just felt wrong to me. So I did what I could to lower pricing while adding more.
      That being said, this is the part I think you are not going to like. Sometimes, I don’t get it. That is, I ran a label for 20 years. My entire life from college though now life I have been surrounded by musicians. When they gig, they blow more than $50 in one night on beer. Many will Fed Ex masters and art for over $50 and think nothing of it. Than there are the fuzz pedals, Pro Tools, guitars and all the other gear costing hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
      Then there are all the other things paid for from time to time – pizza, beer, movies, Berklee school of music, pot, video games and so on.
      And somehow many of those things are OK to spend money on, but $49 ($4 or so dollars a month) for worldwide distribution of an album, collection of all the money, storage, new stores, new technology, protection of your copyrights, having a team – your own record label with a staff there to help and support you – is too high?
      Im sorry, I truly am. I want this to work for you. I want you to think of it the way I do but I can see you do not value it the same way. The TuneCore staff is your staff, they work for you. They yell at retail stores on your behalf, they chase people down and get your money, they fight for you to get better payout rates, they will go to the matt for you to fix any problem, provide information, make changes or take on someone or something that is trying to take advantage of you.
      For about $4 a month for an album.

      We are the best in the world at what we do and we work for you. Every day, in and out. Your music, your art, deserves it. I owe it to you.
      I wish I could make it free, I truly do, I can’t. All of this stuff costs money. But what I can do is improve, provide more outlets, more value and services. Launch new things to get more of your money (click here for more info – http://blog.tunecore.com/2011/07/how-they-legally-steal-your-money.html )
      Hire new people to market and promote your music – click here to see the results http://blog.tunecore.com/2011/07/tunecore-artists-featured-in-digital-stores-july-2011.html

      Hire people to create deals with brands on your behalf – click here to learn about what our EVP Business Development/Integrated Brand Marketing does for you (starts at about 26 minutes) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wldRBmNGMj8

      Robbery to me is when someone lies or steals from you – click here to see how they do that – http://blog.tunecore.com/2011/07/how-they-legally-steal-your-money.html

      and here – http://blog.tunecore.com/2011/07/using-complex-copyright-law-to-take-advantage-of-artists.html

      Robbery is not when you are clear, open and transparent, provide information and give the artist the information to make the decisions they believe are best for them.

      There are so many things I see musicians spend $50 on a year – sometimes I am stunned at how they value three beers and a large pepperoni pizza more than what we do.

      But its moot, as I am here to serve you. You have to agree with me, and you dont. There are other things you think are worth $50 a year, having worldwide distribution, keeping your rights, getting all the money from the sale of your music, have a full team working to market and promote your music while protecting your copyrights and more is not worth it to you.

      I wish to god I could change your mind, I understand I can’t.

      All I can say is we are here if you want us to be there for you if you would like to stay with us.

      jeff

  • Blackdawgwhitekat

    Bill Gates never got ANYWHERE NEAR a trillion dollars. Come on ! Check your facts dude. Bill Gtaes, Warren Buffet, Orah and Ted Tiurner all together do not come even remotely close to half that number. Ridiculous claims like that make your entire article suspect. I mean, that was such a huge exaggeration that one might have thought you were joking. Wow.

    • Anonymous

      got it

      the net worth of bill gates invalidates the concept of copyright reversion to public domain
      i had not previously made the sequitur

      in regards to where the info came from, it was an article i read in the NY Times or LA Times about 12 or 13 years ago
      the headline was something like Bill Gates Net Worth to exceed 1 trillion
      it was based on the % of Microsoft that he owned and the then current stock price + the other income and investments he had
      jeff

  • Imortalone8

    i think the public domain thing is absolutely fine! those childrens childrens childrens what ever dont deserve the rights to there great great great musical fathers brothers uncles twice removed rights or their profit. profit should be earned those box companies, music selling industries etc deserve the rights cause they are the ones selling the product. if anything we need to worry/fix how the current and future musicians, music industries, artists etc keep or have their rights and or to gain any profit at all. like music is the easiest thing to steal. an example is you can just download any song right off of youtube and do what u want with it in about anyway you want or basically any site on that note.

  • Marcus

    I believe if I have put time and effort into my music I should own all rights even after death. 

  • Deltaunitsound

    70 years after the songwriter has died, corporations still make business/money from that intellectual property…look at Bob Marley’s example…why on  earth should the heirs of that creator stop receiving their fair share of income of what they inherited after any amount of time, when the heirs of someone who came up for an invention that has been patented and still commercially exploited longer than 70 years from the death of the inventor, are still entitled to keep ownership of their property?

    This is the same as saying that if you’re the creator of intellectual property that will keep generating millions for decades after your death your heirs will receive a share of the income from their inheritance as long as money is been generated, only of course, if the intellectual property we are talking about is music…then different rules apply….WHY???

    Very very unfair….also, how is music going in the public domain beneficial to music? to allow film production companies to use classical music not having to pay PRS? how is that beneficial to music? if they had to pay a PRS licence for any type of music they use, that would maybe force them into using newer compositions, thus giving a living to composers who are still alive, now THAT would benefit the music scene, not encouraging businesses to use old music so they can save in PRS licence!!!

  • http://twitter.com/JNathanielson Justin Nathanielson

    Charity  it is hard for the generation artist who leave this world who would get their grubby hands on a deceased artist’s money!! http://soundcloud.com/justinnb1/serpeantsinthefamily