>Last night a group of SLIS students went to see Copyright Criminals, which was absolutely amazing, followed by a Q&A with Kembrew McLeod, an event that was part of the Iowa City Public Library’s Intellectual Freedom Festival. I am so excited about this film that I wanted to write a bit here. First of all, I highly recommend that folks should look at the website and watch the film. It’s very well done, and it calls into question our current copyright laws by looking at the history of sampling in music.
A couple great questions were raised in the Q&A that got me thinking about licensing. Liz Holdsworth asked if RJD2’s sampling was illegal at a live show, and the answer is ‘no,’ because music venues have to pay ASCAP & BMI licensing fees in order to host performances. What I didn’t know though (and this was another question that was asked) was that anywhere music is played (i.e. plugging your iPod in to an ice cream store’s stereo system) should technically be paying those fees. I started looking at the FAQ’s on the ASCAP site, and apparently they can charge for just about anything, including using hold music on your business telephone! I don’t want to suggest that artists not receive credit and/or money for their work, but this seems so restrictive and even somewhat invasive (Dr. McLeod mentioned that ASCAP and BMI have employees who will go in to businesses at random to see if they’re in violation.) There must be a better way to go about this, but since I’m not a copyright expert I’m not sure what that better way is!
Also, as a hip-hop fan, I was really excited to see interviews with a lot of wonderful, innovative artists. I have friends who create hip-hop or other types of music using sampling, and it was really interesting to me to learn more about it (for example, the fact that it’s legally easier to cover a whole song than to sample 2 bars from it.) I was definitely surprised by examples of artists who were very, err, insistent that their work only be used in a certain way. I guess it’s just a mindset different from my own, where I see my work as something I am sharing with the world and others can take it and do what they would like as long as I’m credited (and as long as no large company yoinks my work out from under me and makes a bunch of money off of it, which is highly unlikely). All this talk about sampling and licensing and copyright got me thinking about libraries (as I am wont to do), and I would love to hear back from other LIS students and professionals about this. Do libraries have to pay licensing fees in order to let patrons check out DVDs and CDs? What are some ways libraries can promote sharing without running afoul of the law? Obviously we are sharing materials with others free of charge, but I’m curious what other ways libraries can get involved.
And finally! I love Creative Commons, and it is mentioned in the film, but I have a few Creative Commons questions. Because I am one of the editors of B Sides, I know about the different types of licenses and have a pretty good sense of what they entail for the author. What I’m less clear about is their implications later on. The Share-Alike feature is for those wishing their work to only be used with compatible licenses. However, what if someone is sampling (or quoting in a paper) from sources with incompatible licenses? I’ve also heard of CC licenses being argued against because they hold rights into perpetuity, unlike copyrighted materials which pass into the public domain after the author’s death + 70 years (I think it’s 70!) I wonder when (and if) CC licenses become public domain, or if it’s something the author manually has to go in and do.
It occurred to me also that I don’t have a CC license on this site, so as of today, I shall!