Legal mashups? Gowers review & Warners

As mentioned here before Open Right Group (podcasters might know them as Suw Charman spoke at the PodcastCon in another capacity) have been lobbying the Government and the Gowers Review, commissioned by the Treasury, into not extending the current UK copyright laws

Cliff Richards and others were lobbying to extend musical copyright from the existing 50 years, to “95
years or even ‘life plus 70 years'” according to the original Open Rights Release the Music press release. Now according to The Times and others, this has been not recommended by the review; interestingly according to The Times the review recommends relaxation to help musical innovation and creation:

“The report suggests that exemptions to copyright law should be allowed for “transformative works”. This would permit the use of copyright material in new and creative ways, so long as it did not detract from the value of that material or offend artistic integrity. It calls on the EU to amend the law to allow for that exception.”

Now although the example given in the article is about hiphop; the interesting thing is if “tranformative works” applied to mashups and cutup culture, and the effect across the industry if these suggestions are taken on board by the government? At the moment bodies such as the MCPS-PRS look down on what it calls ‘unlicensed interpolations’; but if sampling is (preferably) allowed in the same US ‘Fair Use’ provision, or at least made less painful, that would be a great step forward…interesting that the Gowers Review recognises the issue that here in the UK the copyright law is way behind the US in this regard.

EDIT: Open Rights Group has just put up their press release in response…I agree with them about the restrictions to ‘transformative work’ – all parody should be allowed, who defines what is ‘offensive’?

And not offending the artist gets into the same sort of jumble we have now, where apparently all Outkast remixes have to be approved personally by Andre 3000 (a friend working at SonyBMG told me that once)!
The other interesting related news via a Second Life interview with Warners CEO Edgar Bronfman (thanks to Andy Churchill to alerting me to this) is that Warners are looking into letting people mashup their back catalogue:

AP: Taking a question from the audience, McLuhan Ennis asks: “Can you give a description of the what you describe as middle ground? Say, within the context of a mash-up, what would be an example of fair use?”

EB: It’s our hope we can find a way to generally license much or all of our content for users to adapt in any way they see fit. We want people to use their creativity to take our content and do what they think is an interesting thing.

And there is discussion in the GYBO thread that Universal* is doing likewise – so the concept of the legal mashup – would that take the fun out of it? Certainly as I said in the thread mashups are far, far, far away from being mainstream. Music industry is all about the money, and things that’ll make money get released/cleared quickly. Average of 2-3 years to release is not quick, in the case of the handful of legal mashups that have been cleared and released…

* interestingly last year or so Universal opted out of using PRS and now uses another rights-company, a Dutch one I think…I wonder if it partly was because the PRS as discussed at PodcastCon is positively stone-age and inflexible in it’s approach, compared to other rights companies? And the PRS apparently won’t let the rights-owners give their own songs away for podcasters to play for free, which if true is positively silly and autocratic…

One Comment

  1. December 7

    At the moment, not only are PRS members technically not allowed to use their works in podcasts, but their license scheme doesn’t have any facility for identifying works used and returning royalties to rights holders. It would cost such a lot for them to do this that since podcasting such a minnow medium, they cannot justify it.

    Nonetheless they are looking into changing their rules to allow usage in “social media sites” aka MySpace – which is a major step forward. Meanwhile nobody is being sued… at least, not by the Music Alliance.

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