COPYRIGHT #5 – Created by and for publishers?

The debate on the existence of copyright focuses on whether the content creators need state enforcement to enable owners to gain returns, or whether the producers of the works respond significantly to financial incentives. [1]  If there is a way to prove that authors (a widely defined term) do not need the intellectual property concept of copyright to earn a living, then we can truly question ourselves if is it necessary to continue with this concept.  By looking into the history of copyright, we can see that copyright might not be needed in order for creativity to flourish. Copyright was introduced in England in the sixteenth-century as outgrowth of the privatization of government censorship. It thus helped the publishing industry to conveniently earn money through mass pressings with centralized distribution. This helped a few lucky works to be available to a wide audience providing the publishers a considerable profit. Publishers from most types of creative works have fought not only to preserve the business model, but to build a belief into people’s minds; the belief that using somebody else’s creation is stealing, and that those creators can only survive with the benefits of copyright. Regardless of the historic period, we talk about two different concepts that help us understand this belief. – I steal when I take something from you, and you don’t have it anymore – In terms of creation, I cannot steal something from you, if I take it and then, we both have it –. Returning to the beginning of copyright in New England for the writers, it started out as a censorship law.[2] With the world’s first arrival of the press, writers, if anything, were energetic to know about this new resource to get their work widely known. The English government was concerned about too many works being produced, and more specifically, about which works were distributed out there to the citizens. They had to control what creators wanted to communicate; this was achieved through a royal filter directly connected to the emerged publisher’s industry of that time. The method the government chose was to establish an association of private sector censors called the London Company of Stationers. They were granted a royal monopoly over all printing in England that could control unauthorized presses, books and basically publish only what they wanted. This way, the organization a private strategic profit maker that acted as a tax collector. All members that entered as Stationers had the right to copy and distribute a written work; This law was intended for publishers and sellers, not for authors. New books entered under a company’s member’s name, not the author’s member’s name. [3] The strategy behind this, is that authors do not have the means to distribute their own works, and thus they always need a publisher’s cooperation to make their work generally available.  

In 1710, the first recognizable modern form of copyright took effect in England. The Stationers persuaded the Parliament that authors were the first one to own the rights to copy and distribute their creation, knowing that they had little option but to give those rights to the publishers since they were entirely dependent on them to succeed. At first, this option seemed great for the Stationers until time passed by and the Parliament didn’t contribute anymore to the monopoly of printing and publishing. In this crucial period of history of copyright, was when the force of the copyright turned to the authors and the offer of printers and publishers suddenly increased. The Stationers had no more bargaining power and the authors now could decide were to publish they works. The creators now had the rights to authorize the copy with whomever they wanted. The overall record of the story of copyrights clearly states that it was created by and for publishers. Even though authors were benefited at that time and it can be seen as a fair model from author to publisher, the consequences of this design has lead us to what we have today. Publishers are the ones that have pushed the government to create and modernize the copyright law, while that is the core of their business. Surprisingly, this is not the core business of a creator.

[3] “An Unhurried View of Copyright”, Benjamin Kaplan Columbia University Press, 1967, pp. 4-5.

COPYRIGHT #4: Intellectual disobedience in the internet

Take a look at this video where Nina Parley talks to us about the future of copyright in the internet. “Intelectual disobedience is Civil disobedience plus intelectual property”. So in today’s world, a lot of people infringe copyright.

It’ s a beautiful thing that people share culture with each other. There are risks but people maybe just don’t care about. Laws in the future might not be too relevant in the future, and even if we need a copyright reform, it might not happen.

All the movement we have today in the internet has great things coming up for everyone even dough it is a threat for many “content creators”. So we’ll have to adapt to that.

Listen to this interview which I find really useful for anyone who is creating content out there!

COPYRIGHT #3: The Creative Commons trend


Many have heard of Creative Commons and all their new types of licensing, however, this is just the tip of the iceberg in copyrights, or in the copyleft movement….  So let’s start to understand what the goal or trend is. The next quoted words have some rights reserved while they are not mine. 

“Creative Commons provides free tools that let authors, scientists, artists, and educators easily mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry. You can use CC to change your copyright terms from “All Rights Reserved” to “Some Rights Reserved.”

So, I will not speak in complicated terms, while CC is nothing else but a simple tool to share content online. We are talking about a non profit organisation based in California and founded in 2001 by Lawrence LessigHal Abelson, and Eric Eldred. So what they do is base their licenses on copyrights without substituting them. If you remember my recent post from the copyleft movement, now we can see clearly acknowledge that CC is contributing to building a richer public domain. And beyond that ,it has provided “institutional, practical and legal support for individuals and groups wishing to experiment and communicate with culture more freely” according to David Berry in 2005 in Free software magazine.

There for characteristics to the licenses: Attribution (BY), requiring attribution to the original author; Share Alike (SA), allowing derivative works under the same or a similar license (later or jurisdiction version); Non-Commercial (NC), requiring the work is not used for commercial purposes; and No Derivative Works (ND), allowing only the original work, without derivatives.  By making combinations, you get the types of licenses CC offers, here’s a list of them:

  • Attribution (CC BY)
  • Attribution Share Alike (CC BY-SA)
  • Attribution No Derivatives (CC BY-ND)
  • Attribution Non-Commercial (CC BY-NC)
  • Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike (CC BY-NC-SA)
  • Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives (CC BY-NC-ND)

For technical information visit their website or other trustworthy sources. 



So getting more to the point of this blog, Creative Commons has initiated an obliged trend to make sharing content easier to understand and follow. The licenses for next year 2013 are expected to be different, having the licences be easier to understand, more flexible, and more international. And it’s about time, as we have been using the current version for five years. Many things has happened since then. 

Apart from making the rules for using CC-licensed content more clear, the international regulation is what is driving everyone crazy, according to Kirsten Winkler. “The Internet is international, but standard copyright law varies from country to country”. This is the trend fro 2013, but also the need which has been development as the amount of users sharing and using others’ content. It’s a mess!



COPYRIGHT #2: The 70’s Copyleft Movement: free for all, damn the man


Free for all, damn the man. This phrase just brought me back to the rebellion of the seventies where americans started to oppose to so much rules of the US government.  One of this oppositions started with the freedom for software usage. Richard Stallman is the father of the copyleft movement.  According to the father of this modern trend, free is not related to the price or cost of the work, which in that case was software,  but to the user freedoms that come along with the usage of the work. “these freedoms permit citizens to help themselves and help each other, and thus participate in a community” according to Stallman.


The consequence of this was the copyleft license, requiring the product and any of its extensions.. for free. Of course that the simplest way to accomplish making a product free is to put it in the public domain archive; not controlled and not managed. Not only that but, the problem with public domain is that anyone can take your work and makes changes and then redistribute it under copyright and where you no longer have the rights to it. 

So the best option till now is to reserve some rights so that the authors prevent the people that use their work to go back to all rights reserved or to simply take advantage of the situation. Some people are fine with sharing works and using them respectfully. Others are greedy and want steal ideas, works and profit from them as much as they can. Others are combinations of these two perspectives. Innovations such as Creative Commons protect ‘copyleft’ thinkers with their works so that ‘copyright greedy’ or potential others don’t take advantage of the situation, while at the same time promoting the ideal copyleft world. Sweet, isn’t it?

Stay posted for more blogging on Creative Commons and the new world trends the hippies started 40 years ago in the US.


COPYRIGHT #1: NET LABELS – Are we ready for a free music culture?


So if you look into a what a record label does it all comes down to promoting a variety of artists and invest in each one accordingly to make profit. That’s it. Promoting can be divided into public relations, marketing, awareness, distribution, image and more. With all the digital tools which evolve as we are reading this blog, the guerrilla marketing or so called creative low budget marketing, can be done by ourselves. Not only that, but we have to do it by ourselves.

This is where a Net Label comes in. They do everything that a record label does but focusing mainly on internet; Boom!…. you suddenly have a Net Label. Are these organizations, companies, websites, or communities? How are they regulated and how do international laws apply to operate and function as real companies while also complying with royalty compensations? I won’t go deep into the ocean that I don’t navigate and where also others don’t know how to navigate, but what I can tell you is that we can’t think in the same way as we did with the physical product era. There are no stocks, there’s no inventory in the accounting system, there is no profit per unit. Everything is virtual, digital. We create that value online with the music, but clearly thinking out of the box. Are we ready for this?

Think for a moment, who is trying to promote music everyday though the internet as a way to make profit? This can be done in different and creative ways: standalone websites, subdomains of prominent services, side projects of existing record labels, disguised podcasts, slick enterprises. Soundcloud, Bandcamp and blogspot are Net Labels, because there in the core business of a ‘digital record label’. With all the resources, I don’t think there’s any limit and I don’t think that copyright will last too long with the same model we know. Music can’t be free, but It can’t also be treated as a unit. Music is an experience and Net labels are providing experiences for consumers connected all day to the world wide web.

Here are some point to think about when building the strategy for a Net Label:

  • Consider singles, albums or both downloads?
  • Model your releases on creative ways and truly forget about the old record label model
  • Charge money if you believe you added value deserves it.
  • Create amazing user download experiences
  • Decide the license you up to before releasing. Creative Commons is the trendiest option for this type of label today
  • Develop a sense of community
  • Think of tags rather than genres
  • Get creative, because the others are doing it already! Gotta stand out

Have fun!

AFRICAN MUSIC #4: Nat Geo Music – A niche record label since 2009


National Geographic introduced in January 2009, Nat Geo Music, new record label from the  featuring the best in modern global sounds. Their music division was named and launched under the same name in 2006. Their goal was to release and promote artist from a variety of musical genre with the initial advantage of providing publishing administration services to the more than 16,000 music clues owned by them. Smart, isn´t it? Kobalt has been a leading independent global music service publisher in the past years. Now they do the publishing for Nat Geo. 

Today, in 2012, the have hundreds of artists under varied music genres and it is definitely a Record Label that is focused on a niche market. The name and the brand of Nat Geo is very strong. The question is, will this company be able to maintain profitable numbers and succeed by maintaing the company´s vision? Revenues channels for Nat Geo Music are found though the TV channel, magazines ( for the other divisions of the company), live events in Europe, publishing rights and record label services.



AFRICAN MUSIC #5: Music in Africa – Getting creative and proactive in this changing decade


It’s obvious but not evident to everyone. Music from Africa has a lot to offer to the world, however not too many business’ eyes are on the ambitious project of making this big.


There are though, organizations and people that make the exception. Let’s take a look at two….


‘Africa unsigned’  is a joint initiative by producers, artists, music promoters and managers who believe in the future of African music. Currently there are approximately thirty people involved across the globe. They have presence in Europe, in South Africa, West Africa and in East Africa. It possesses an Amsterdam based website and uses crowd-funding, the known method which allows people to pool their money online to raise money. The funds are directed to African and Africa diaspora musicians that you cannot find in record stores, commercial radio or local versions of MTV. Most of the site’s visitors are from Europe and America, but now Africa Unsigned is targeting the continent. They’re targeting mobile phone users. Kenya is one of its firsts targets for revenue reasons.

Music in mobiles is unique here in Africa because there are more mobile phones than toothbrushes!! Sounds funny, but it’s true. People like music and mobile is one way they can take their music with them wherever they go. Since not so many people have Internet on a computer, and more have access to Internet on their phone, there is a huge opportunity.  This has given rise to content that consumers from the African continent might really start to like. It is to these growing consumers that we are making more content available, by bringing them music on their mobile in a sustainable and rewardable way for the creators/artists and record labels.


‘OkayAfrica’ on a different perspective is a web-based organization that links the latest news on politics,culture and music  coming from Africa and the Diaspora. They even have projects placed in kickstarter to do fund-raising. Find in this website blogs, news, music, political opinions, etc…

On a final note, (according to one of the 2011 blogs by popular BEOBAB), “Artists are making music, but are conscious of what their role is, wanting Africa to be different than the Africa they have known.”

Let’s be creative to help new sounds find their way though all ears. Let’s use music to change the continent of Africa! Or should we just say.. continue to do it.. there’s a lot of effort back there and the sounds are already around the globe…..

AFRICAN MUSIC #5: Zangalewa, Zamina or Waka Waka?


Who would have thought that the song featured by Shakira con the 2010 World in South Africa was part of the repertoire to soldiers and boy scouts in Cameron? The rhythm is for sure catchy and it served as a song march for many years. Zangalewa is a 1986 Camerronian song that sometimes is called Zamina. So let´s take a look at what happened in the music world?

The Golden Sounds of Cameroon composed this piece in the mid 80´s. The song features Zolani Mahola of the South African group Freshlyground, singing in one of the official languages of that country, Xhosa.

There was a speculation that a dominican Wilfrido Vargas singer wanted to sue Shakira for the chorus of Waka Waka, which was no as well his original work. But much important than this, is that the original author of the work knew about the infringement of the copyright at the moment of the World Cup back in mid 2010. Did the major label play nasty against a minor artist? I wouldn´t discard the work of Shakira or even the producers, which truly brought to life a great remake of the song; However that song could have meant a lot to the people in Cameron. Is it fair to use someone else’s work if this has a strong and deep meaning for them? So it’s not only about copyright. Similar cases such as Lambada used by Jennifer Lopez in her release “On the floor” had a fair use because there was no copyright infringement. Whether the brazilians liked the sudden mainstream of this catchy phrase or not is another topic of discussion.

In July 15, 2010, an article in Africa was released discussing why an african artist was not chosen to perform in the World Cup of the same continent. Later on, many africans, the Golden Sounds band accused Shakira of copyright infringement and demanded compensantion for the use of the music. Actually, another artist Kéké Kassiry from Cote D’Ivoire, which claimed to have registered the song in France,  said that the song was originally his.

There’s not enough information on the case whether it has been solved or not but what do you think readers? What can be changed in the music industry to make it fair for everyone? Businessmen with power in the music industry can sometimes do whatever they want, but where is this going take us?

AFRICAN MUSIC #3: Soukus as a style that rose again in the 80´s



As the concept for world music was adopted in the 80´s, so was Soukus known for contemporary congolese music. Artfully produced, indefatigably upbeat music, genial voices and mesmerizing guitars, is a great description made by National Geographic. In the 1960´s the Congolese’s music market was dominated by three songs even dough many concerts where going on the streets. Since this music is directly related to dancing, some performances extended their improvisations up to 20 minutes. 

The evolution of this music was evident as soon as it touched Europe, specifically Paris. Bands had been moving out of the Congo since the 70´s and expanded internationally to others countries  of Africa and Europe. Since then, musicians started living more out of recording sessions and their own albums. Before the beggining of the new millennium formal bands for soukus music where forming and playing in Europe. Some of these bands are 4 Étoiles, Loketo and Soukous Stars, Sam Mangwana, Mose Fan Fan, and Samba Mapangala. As albums where produced with a much more modern and less spontaneous way, they found it hard to sell that music back in their countries of origin. Some of them have found the way to gain fans around the world even dough not necessarily categorised as world music. 

AFRICAN MUSIC #2: Soukus from Africa


There is a strong connection between Cuba and Africa, and Soukus is the way we can dig more into the history of music between these two regions.This particular kind of dance music was generated in the Belgian Congo in Africa around the 1940´s and spread though surrounding countries till today. Cuban music was playing in African radio stations. The style is also referred to as “rumba”. And from the french roots, the original word secousse means ” to shake”. 

Great model figures for this genre, Franco Lumbao and Grand Kalle influenced many new musicians in the decades of the 60´s and the 70´s in Africa. Later on, soukus became faster while rock and roll made its way in musicians mind!

In the 80´s, there was a name for soukus and it began to develop while the music was exported to  the UK and Paris. It´s been 30 years since that, so the question is, how can we build today a brand for musicians like these that have a unique african sound? How can we build a win win strategy so that they actually make a living out of their music? Keep on reading next posts to know more about these amazing non traditional artists.