Copyright State of Mind

I cautiously welcome the new proposed changes to UK copyright law to allow format shifting (ie. what pretty much everyone does already, which is copy CDs they own onto their iPods or computers, crazily this has been officially illegal) and parodies – like the excellent Newport State of Mind above. Cautious because we’ve been here before (remember the orphan works being dropped from DEAct at the last moment? But leaving the unworkable website blocking provisions in? Interestingly Vince Cable admits that now…) but it’s a step in the right direction towards a ‘Fair use’ law and recognising people’s attitudes to their media has changed. It does seems unfair to require people to buy a copy again and again just to change formats in the digital era, especially when there is no trade up in quality in doing so, just convenience.

I’m sure the furore over ‘Newport…’ was part of the reason parody was included in the recommendations, apparently it wasn’t EMI the record label who pulled the video off YouTube a year ago (interestingly someone reposted it a day later and that version still stands) but the songwriters such as Jay-Z and Alicia Keys who have had a humour bypass. But the clincher is the fact that if it had been made in the US it would have been fine under their ‘fair use’ laws. Really parodies like this should be treat as a special sort of cover version, with royalties paid for sales, and I’d argue mashups should be similar, with a 50/50 split or whatever to each artist, this must be possible – look at medleys? But before that the arcane laws on sampling need to be sorted out too.

So if parodies are go, that does open the door for mashups and works of cultural appropriation to give them their wanky title…I hope I see that day.

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