The Beatles. Copyright. And a Funny Interview.

On the 4th of November, the copyright term for sound recordings and performer’s rights in sound recordings was increased from 50 to 70 years in the UK.

Depending on how you look at it, this means that  –

  • Some of Rock and Roll’s biggest hits will not be made available to the public domain until 2033, to be –

    a) Ruined by the likes of PITBULL
    b) Used to take music forward (eg. The Grey Album)

  • Musicians and corporations behind those musicians stand to profit from re-releases and will continue to generate profit in a purely selfish manner.

Dj’s in both the EDM and Hip Hop industries have a valid argument that music should be available to re work, re mix and sample. Without sampling, it may be argued that these two styles would not exist. My personal beef with this remix culture, however, is that I don’t want my children to grow up listening to the pop star of the day singing over an over produced, tacky, sped up version of an amazing song like Blackbird.

Conversely, Fran Nevrkla, the chairman of the music licensing body Phonographic Performance Limited questions “where is the investment going to come from to fund the next generation of bands such as U2 and Coldplay?”

This law comes as no coincidence and is a result of of much pressure from powerful figures in the industry.

In a speech at the music conference Midem in June this year, Nevrkla put extreme pressure on government legislation, highlighting the “crucial importance of IP rights to the British and global economy.”

So what has happened since this law was changed?

Interestingly, seven days after the announcement of the copyright change, The Beatles’ Apple organisation released On Air Live At The BBC – Volume 2. This release came almost 20 years after the release of Volume 1. Surely at this rate, Apple, EMI and Universal will be milking the money out of Beatles fans for years to come.

Next Tuesday, 59 Beatles bootlegs will be officially released, the CD will include outtakes, demos and live BBC performances. Whilst they are circulating online and are not actually that rare, this is just another opportunity for these corporations to make money. How big is the unreleased discography and how much of it will we never hear? This release comes due to another recent change to the copyright law that makes unreleased material free of copyright – and therefore in the public domain – 50 years after it has been recorded.

If the Fab Four were around today, I wonder how they would feel about this issue – would they sit back and reap the benefits, or would they see it as the music they lovingly created for the world being stolen from the public domain? I’d like to think the latter…

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