11 March 2008

Sounds great when you're dead (continued)

I am instinctively opposed to increasing the duration of copyright in sound recordings, which seems to me likely to work only in favour of the record industry. The big companies probably need the money, but that doesn't amount to a compelling argument for change. However, if I were wrong on this score and in fact the benefit would be felt by the artists, that would be another matter. And I think my views are shifting.

I asked Mike Tobin if he could enlighten me, being as he is the manager of the most important and brilliant group of musicians currently practising in this country. He suggested I contact Peter Purnell of Angel Air Records (http://www.angelair.co.uk/), who has rereleased the entire Stackridge back catalogue (along with lots of other good stuff, and probably some that I wouldn't consider so good, although I'm sure that the dictum "there's no such thing as bad music ...", while suspect as a universal statement, certainly holds true for the Angel Air catalogue).

So, on a quiet afternoon when the office email system was defunct (it has been down for nearly five days now) I pinged an email to him using the enquiry form on the web site - and within about a minute he had phoned me, justifying all the good things I had heard about him and creating a very favourable impression. He confirmed that recording contracts are highly variable but that often they are for a term of twenty or thirty years, so once that period has expired the rights are available for the artists to exploit. Moreover, he is clearly very keen on longer protection for recordings as a means of providing for impecunious musicians.

Sounds reasonable to me. I'm still thinking that the better solution would be to extend rights in performances, but there seems to be merit in the argument that a sound recording should not be regarded simply as the creation of the record company (the ancient common law copyright problem of following the money): the performers are the people who create it, and in the case of what might broadly be called popular music as opposed to classical the recording has an existance separate from the musical work. For example, if I want a CD of (say) Finzi's clarinet concerto I will consult the books and magazines and find the best one (which in fact I picked up by accident in a bargain bin, but that's another story), but if it's a recording of a classic Beatles or Stones song, it's a recording by The Beatles or The Rolling Stones that I almost certainly want.

But will the proposed legislation deal with this issue, and ensure that the rights do find their way to the people who need them?

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