By Russell McOrmond 12/11/06
Most Canadians are confused about the music industry and how different parts exist that seem to be battling each other for music related money. The largest division is between the composers/authors/publishers of the underlying music and the recording industry (labels, etc).
We are moving into a time when the recording industry may no longer have much of a purpose, with much of their roll being replaced by cheaper methods of recording and distributing recorded music, more fair promotional methods that don't leave the majority of musicians poor in order to prop up superstars, and a wider variety of business models available to artists. The recording industry is fighting back against this modernizing trend, trying to replace some of the money they are loosing in this market modernization by taking it from the music publishing arm which has seen growth with new media.
You can see an example of this battle in the Hollywood Reporter:
WASHINGTON -- Record labels are asking a panel of copyright judges to lower the rate they pay music publishers and songwriters for the use of the lyrics and melodies with which they create sound recordings.
The same thing is happening in Canada at the Copyright Board, with the 4 major transnational labels (Sony/BMG, EMI, Universal, Warner) that control IFPI, as well as CRIA, RIAA, and other national rebrandings, fighting the music industry in each country.
I believe we need to have governments step in with sound economic analysis to protect the music industry from the recording industry. The focus should be on protecting the rights of the songwriters (not just the publishers) and the performers (not the legacy recording industry labels). As an example, much of the publishing industry is under collective licensing where it is payment and not permission required for communication of music over radio and public performances (such as in bars). One proposal is to do something similar with online distribution of recorded music, returning royalty payments to the performers. This will allow the growth in online music distribution to benefit artists, rather than pitting artists against music fans in legal and other battles which nobody wins.
We should not be looking at ways to protect the recording industry from modernization. Like the horseshoe business during the growth of the automobile, it is a sign of modernization and not a bad thing when outdated industries downsize.
Russell McOrmond, the editor of Digital Copyright Canada, is an independent author (software and non-software) who uses modern business models and licensing (Free/Libre and Open Source Software, Creative Commons).
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