Thursday, 20 October 2011

Free Justin Bieber!

OK, you might not throng the streets in a mass protest calling for Justin Bieber's release. For me, his crimes against music call for eternity in an oubliette. But he's a great example of the iniquity of copyright law.

Amongst the many asinine and cynical applications of copyright (extending profiteering many lifetimes to benefit corporations rather than authors and artists; retarding the spread of academic ideas and wider culture…), the US is debating a plan to outlaw the performance of copyrighted work on electronic media. As the vast majority of electronic media are legally resident in the US, we'll all be caught.

So: no Justin Bieber, who caught the eye of music industry lizards by posting video of himself singing along to R'n'B tracks. No drunk phone video of you singing 'Happy Birthday' to your friend in the pub. No posting wedding reception footage of drunks bawling 'Too-Rye-Ay' en masse. The sentence is 5 years. Other offences include using copyrighted material in the background, or even accidentally including music, ring tones and jingles when you post footage taken in public.

Here are some criminals who will soon be in the cooler:

Most pleasingly, this poster calls himself 'PunkforChrist': we'll see how he, Josh, Danny, Ben, Bridget and Joe enjoy being Punks for Killer and his friends in Sing Sing.

There are no videos of me singing, and there never will be. I was in my school choir: three successful years of miming without ever being caught! It got me out of a lot of very boring classes and very painful rugby games, at the minor cost of faking both religious fervour and musical talent: the Catholic Milli Vanilli! The perfect crime!

More seriously: copyright laws are utterly outdated. I want artists to make a living from their music. Nobody would disagree with that. But major corporations are using copyright to squeeze out innovation. Your kids singing along to Lady Gaga using a hairbrush as a microphone won't snatch the food out of her mouth. It's a fundamental misunderstanding of our relationship to art: we don't steal it, we use it, alter it, admire it.


The Red Witch said...

And it's a way to deal with all the unemployed or the ones living in tent cities: throw them in all into jail. It's the answer to every problem. :-)

Ewarwoowar said...

What about karaoke bars?

The Plashing Vole said...

Reputable karaoke bars will be paying for a PRS licence which covers mechanically reproduced music. Though this may be a good justification for closing down the unlicensed ones!