No Freeloaders Thanks! But Wait, You Sure?

Recognize this sign?


As you may have guessed by the above picture we will in today’s blog post learn about the law on copyright. We will not only discuss what it is, how it works and why it is illegal to infringe other people’s copyright, but we will also see how it sometimes can be a benefit for the copyright owner to have a more relaxed approach on this. 

Copyright is a law that gives you ownership over the things you create. Be it a painting, a photograph, a poem or a novel, if you created it, you own it and it’s the copyright law itself that assures that ownership. It entitles the copyright owner to royalties and a say in how a work is used when it is reproduced by other people. Copyright protection is automatically given to works as soon as they are fixed in material form (ideas are not protected, only the permanent expression of those ideas).

You do not have to go through any legal process or registration to establish copyright. That said, it is still good practice to keep records and evidence of the artistic works you have created. You will make people aware of your claim to copyright ownership if you put the symbol © with your name and the year of publication somewhere on the work. This is not proof that you own the copyright, but it may prove helpful if you bring an action for copyright infringement at a later date. You could consider sending yourself a copy of your work, clearly date stamped and by special delivery, and keeping the envelope unopened or depositing copies with a solicitor. Although this does not prove that the work is created by you, it can still be useful to show the court that the work was in your possession at a particular time. This could help with an infringement claim.

In the UK, copyright lasts for the lifetime of the artist plus 70 years after their death. There are some special provisions which apply to older unpublished works. Sound recordings, films, broadcasts and cable programmes are protected for 50 years from the date of making or the date of release if the release occurs within 50 years of it being made. Copyright in typographical arrangements of a published edition lasts for 25 years from the end of the year in which the edition was first published.

Copyright is infringed when someone carries out one of the copyright owner’s exclusive rights without their permission, and an exception to copyright does not apply. This can be in relation to the whole or a substantial part of the artistic work. What is “substantial” is determined by a qualitative test, not a quantitative one, which means that there may be an infringement even if a small but distinctive portion of the original artwork is copied. If you own the copyright, you are entitled to bring proceedings against the infringer for copyright infringement. A number of civil remedies may be granted if the claim is successful: these include an award of damages or an injunction which orders the infringer to stop using the work immediately.

It is obvious to assume that if an artist wants to make a living from their music, they have got to enforce copyright to stop all those freeloaders ruining their business. As we will see in the below YouTube clip there are number of artists with this approach that have had their music infringed by other musicians and taken them to court. One good example is The Kink’s song All Day And All Of The Night v. The Doors with their song Hello, I Love You. (Click here to listen to the similarity of the two songs.) The court held the songs were indeed very similar, so a deal was made between the artists were The Kinks were given a large deal of The Door’s royalty. The infringement was not only illegal but it was also morally wrong and it left The Doors ashamed and with empty pockets (but still not as empty as mine).

However, there are also artists that do appreciate and have a more relaxed approach to infringements on their copyright. One of those is Psy with his hit song that no one can have missed, Gangnam Style. (Remember last summer when everyone looked like they were doing some type of jumping frog aerobics choreography on the dance floor? Yeah, that’s the song and dance we are talking about). It was held that Psy made millions by ignoring copyright infringements on Gangnam Style. The copying helped turn Gangnam Style into one of the most successful cultural phenomena in recent years, and that includes becoming the most-viewed video on YouTube ever. Interestingly, it’s mostly from things not directly connected with either his music or video that is making money. It is merely television commercials that are the big money spinner for the star. PSY has been popping up in TV commercials in South Korea for top brands such as Samsung Electronics and mobile carrier LG Uplus.

This is a great example of how artists can give away copies of their music and videos to build their reputations and then earn significant sums from (as in this case) appearances in TV commercials.

Should artists enforce copyright or have a more relaxed approach about it? Personally I feel like I wouldn’t want people to freeload on my music or any of my businesses. It is my hard work that someone in simply stealing and making money out of. I think it would be difficult for me to have a laid back approach in regards to this. Not every artist like to take the same route as Psy and neither would I (if I was an artist).

What do you think? Please share your thoughts and comments.

Here is a clip with examples of 10 rip-off songs – many of them accused of plagiarism:

“The robbed that smiles, steals something from the thief.”
― William Shakespeare


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