Sun Jan 23 14:31:47 EST 2000
This is from Jazz-L, I thought it worth cross posting as it affects us all:
We should organize and vehemently fight this bullshit amendment and make
them repeal it!!
Amendment To Copyright Act Could Mean That Artists Will Never Own
Their Recordings. Labels could treat
sound recordings as ''works for hire.''
By Mark Lewis
A deeply controversial amendment to the 1976 Copyright Act--added
without congressional debate or input
from artists--now allows record companies to treat musicians'
recordings as "works for hire." Tacked onto an
omnibus appropriations bill by a congressional staffer and signed
into law by President Bill Clinton on Nov. 29,
the new amendment could prevent artists from reclaiming the
rights to their work after 35 years, the current
legal waiting period.
The new categorization of sound recordings as "works for hire"
will give record companies firm legal ground to
claim that an artist's album is a "compilation" or "collected
work," a category that has been used in the past only
for large collaborative efforts such as movies and anthologies of
By treating the artist as a person hired to make the recording,
the record company would own the recordings
and have the right to control their distribution and use them
indefinitely. For artists, this radical change would
mean that they are, in fact, selling the rights to their work
forever, rather than allowing a record company to
use it for a limited period of time to market, distribute and
earn profits from it.
Billboard reported that the change in the law was requested by
the Recording Industry Association of America,
a record industry group that defends the interests of the major
record labels. RIAA president Hilary Rosen
claimed that the amendment merely makes a recording "eligible"
for work-for-hire status, and the artist and
label must still sign a contract that either explicitly makes the
recording a work-for-hire or leaves rights with
Rosen also stated that the amendment is simply a provision that
legally nails down the recording industry's
view that the artist is just one of many participants, along with
backup musicians, arrangers and engineers,
who jointly create an album. In the RIAA's eyes, if the album is
not treated as a collective work, then record
labels cannot easily determine who owns the rights. Calling an
album a collective work allows them to simplify
the situation, they say. It would also allow them to assume
ownership of the music.
But most artists have their supporting musicians and other studio
personnel sign legal agreements stating that
they do not have ownership rights to the final musical product.
The purpose of doing that is to ensure that the
primary artists have the sole rights to the work.
Moreover, many artists write and record their albums on their
own, without the involvement of a record
company's studio (if it has one), which means that there are not
numerous collaborators. And artists, their
agents and their lawyers almost universally agree that the major
creative individual or band behind an album
is the music's author. (Composers, songwriters and music
publishing companies must be paid if their material is
used on a different performer's album.)
If the new amendment stands up against anticipated legal battles
and no further action is recommended in
House Intellectual Property Subcommittee hearings (which have not
yet been scheduled), artists may never be
able to own their music. Under the current copyright law, artists
who signed contracts with record companies
after Jan. 1, 1978 have the right to get the music back after 35
years, a "rights-reversion" period that artists
can take advantage of beginning in 2013. At that time, an artist
could sell a recording back to the record
company, or take it elsewhere for more money or better
distribution, for example.
Artists interviewed by Billboard, including Don Henley, James
Taylor, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Coolio,
were unanimous in expressing their concern over the "new rules of
the game." Several said they would be
willing to join a guild or hire a Washington lobby to watch out
for their interests on Capitol Hill.
There are two existing unions that represent some musicians--the
American Federation of Television and Radio
Artists and the American Federation of Musicians--but the RIAA
and Congress did not consult them before
adding the amendment.
Ron Stone, who represents Los Lobos, Ziggy Marley, Bonnie Raitt
and Tracy Chapman, told Billboard, "I've been
trying to organize some sort of guild with the managers and the
artists, who usually wouldn't join anything.
But the essence is this: Between the consolidation of the record
companies, radio, promoters in the marketplace,
the artist is under siege here. This law erodes, once again, the
artist's position in the industry."
Music is art for the ears,
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