Resource Proposal #1 (more on proposals)
Type (Biz, Gov, or Soc): Business yes.
Name of Resource and Citation: Aloe Blacc: Streaming Services Need to Pay Songwriters Fairly found on WIRED.com.
Blacc, Aloe. “Aloe Blacc: Streaming Services Need to Pay Songwriters Fairly.” WIRED. Conde Nast Digital, 5 Nov. 2014. Web. 14 Apr. 2015. <http://www.wired.com/2014/11/aloe-blacc-pay-songwriters/>.
Topic for Paper:
In my previous paper, I explored the issues of HBO cable accessibility through the lens of the commons and Kantian ethics. Following this same vein, I am considering the topic of compensation for creative work for my final paper. In the case of this resource, I am looking at the music industry. Written by famous singer-songwriter Aloe Blacc, the article provides Blacc’s opinions on the unfair compensation streaming services provide to songwriters by referencing his own experiences and Taylor Swift’s decision to pull her music from Spotify. He also discusses the need for change in ASCAP and BMI consent decrees and urges the US Department of Justice to consider how the industry has changed since the implementation of these standards. Ultimately, Blacc asks the reader to consider how music can continue if those producing it cannot make enough to survive, even after writing what is considered a successful song.
Aloe Blacc’s article for WIRED is potentially a valuable source for my paper because it provides first hand evidence of the unfair compensation songwriters receive for their creative work. Blacc uses his own work as an example of the unfair relationship between creatives and streaming services. Despite being “the most streamed song in Spotify history and the 13th most played song on Pandora since its release in 2013, with more than 168 million streams in the US,” Avicii’s “Wake Me Up!,” which features Blacc as a singer and co-songwriter, only received $12,359. After splitting the royalties between songwriters and publishers, Blacc says, ” I’ve earned less than $4,000 domestically from the largest digital music service.”
Using Blacc’s account and explanation of the changing times is also valuable in pointing me in other directions for future research. Now having read Blacc’s article, I know that if I want to continue exploring the ways creatives are compensated in the music industry that I will definitely need to learn more about the legislation that is causing the problems. Blacc references ASCAP and BMI consent decrees and that both of these decrees have changed over the years, although Blacc does note that neither have been updated since the iPod’s release. He also writes that the US Department of Justice has just recently opened these decrees up for review, which begins to give me more direction in who my audience might be for this paper.
Additionally, Blacc presents a well rounded argument and acknowledges that the streaming services and creatives have a complex set of relationships. While I would guess that Blacc’s position as a songwriter makes him biased toward the increased compensation of creatives, he does present the benefits of working with streaming services like Pandora and Spotify. Blacc writes, “the irony of the situation is that our music is actually being enjoyed by more people in more places and played across more platforms (largely now digital) than ever before.” I think that this acknowledgment gives Blacc greater creditability and makes him a more reliable source as he does no demonize the streaming services, and is open to the innovative possibilities they offer. Blacc simply wants creatives to be valued in the way that they deserve and in ways that are similar to other creative mediums.
One issue for you is that creatives’ economic outlooks are so strongly affected by the combination of platform and regulation. Writers face one set of circumstances with copyright, visual people another, and now, songwriters with the laws that affect them. What his article shows, and other info you will find, is that particular regulatory regimes reflect compromises or fights from given moments in time. TV and movie studios lost their fight to ban old VHS videotape technology. Disney keeps winning to mkae copyright longer, and so on.
LAwerence LEssig’s book Code 2.0 is one good source for a lot of this background. It may seem a little dated, but I think it is still relevant.
Are you sure you want to focus just on music industry? I think you should pick one, but wasn’t sure if this was the one you wanted.
Resource Proposal #2 (more on proposals)
Type (Biz, Gov, or Soc): Government
Name of Resource and Citation: Copyright Registration for Motion Pictures, Including Video Recordings found on the United States Copyright Office website. I believe the following is how you cite a government document, but I am definitely open to corrections:
United States of America. Copyright Office. Copyright Registration for Motion Pictures, Including Video Recordings. Vol. 45. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, n.d. Circular. U.S. Copyright Office. Library of Congress, Mar. 2014. Web. 22 Apr. 2015. <http://copyright.gov/circs/circ45.pdf>.
Topic for Paper:
I am not entirely positive which creative field I want to focus on in my paper yet, and was interested in learning more about the VHS copyright laws mentioned in Jordi’s comments on my first resource proposal. I felt like I should look into what kind of laws face the motion picture world before I decided whether I wanted to pursue topics found in Aloe Blacc’s article. In trying to learn more about the copyright laws on VHS, I found a circular provided by the U.S. Copyright Office. The document highlights changes to motion picture copyright law made in 1978 and 1989. Additionally, it defines what is considered publication, timing of copyright application, requirements for copyright application, and how long a copyright lasts for before one can reapply.
I felt that the circulation entitled Copyright Registration for Motion Pictures would be valuable to my research because it gave me a clear understanding of what the laws are that interfere with the creative process. Although not a part of this document, Jordi’s previous comment and cursory looks at other sources confirm that the dates noted in this Copyright Office resource coincide with the actions by Disney to extend their copyright protections. I think that this particular resources is most valuable for me learning how the copyright process occurs, which will allow me to intelligently discuss potential flaws in the structure of the regulations.
The steps for the registration of a published movie requires the submission of “a separate description of the nature and general content of the work—for example, a shooting script, a synopsis, or a pressbook; and one complete copy of the work. A copy is complete if it is undamaged and free of splices and defects that would interfere with viewing the work” (2). The requirements for an unpublished motion picture are similar, but ask that the “copy of the work containing all the visual and aural elements covered by the registration,” as opposed to a copy of a complete work in its best form (3). While the steps for registration seem simple enough, the copyright protection lasts up to 28 years, and possibly a second 28 year term if re-registered. This adds up to a potential 56 year copyright certification for any given published or unpublished film.
The greatest value of this source is that it is reliable, especially because it comes directly from the U.S. Copyright Office. It discloses the basic information of the laws and the process of copyright certification in a way that is completely void of bias. While this gives clear ideas for which legislation might need to be targeted in my paper (should I pursue film over music), it does require additional information because it does not trace the history of the changes to motion picture copyright law. This circulation gives a clean cut description of where copyright law is at in this moment, but understanding how it got there might take information from other resources, possibly ones that would fall outside of the government category. While I work out exactly which topic to pursue in depth, understanding the issues of copyright and other regulations that influence the economic gains of creative positions will be helpful in understanding the larger context of which ever issue I pin point in my final paper.
Good. You needed this background.
Resource Proposal #3 (more on proposals)
Type (Biz, Gov, or Soc): Society
Name of Resource and Citation: Joanna Demers’s Steal This Music
Demers, Joanna. Steal This Music: How Intellectual Property Law Affects Musical Creativity. Athens: U of Georgia, 2006. Print.
Title looks promising.
Topic for Paper:
After doing some research on creative copyright issues in television, film, and music, I am feeling mostly drawn to the area of music. In my previous papers and blogs, I explored the challenges posed by streaming and digital technologies in the television industry and through my research I am finding that these shifts are also raising concerns in the music industry. In researching more of the concepts of intellectual law, one of the books I found was Steal This Music written by Joanna Demers. Although some chapters of the book focus more closely on legal issues around specific topics of musical arrangements, remixes, and duplication, the entirety of the text is concerned with intellectual copyright law in the world of music. Demers’s writing conveys clearly the limitations set by legal standards in the music industry. The chapter that has helped me the most so far is entitled “Music as Intellectual Property” and it details the history beginnings of copyrights in music and how copyright can be manipulated to undermine the songwriters and creators. The book itself is helpful in understanding the terms of intellectual copyright as it relates specifically to music.
In an early resource proposal, Jordi recommended Lawrence Lessig’s Code 2.0, which I unfortunately have been struggling to find. Although the search for Code 2.0 has led me so some of Lessig’s other work as well as many interesting works by other authors, I found Joanna Demers’s Steal This Music to stand out in its evaluation of music specifically. Funny enough, within the introduction to the book Lessig is noted as a starting point for Demers discussion as she writes, “Lawrence Lessig has argued that our present system allows only the very rich, or the very obscure, to appropriate without fear of reprisal. Lessig is right in condemning the expansion of IP protections to boundaries far beyond what the original framers had in mind” (9). Demers also stood out as a competent and trustworthy source because of her experience in the music industry as a musicologist, industry consultant, musician, and as a current assistant professor of music history and literature at the University of Southern California. Her experience and her use of researched examples allow her to form a thoughtful argument that intellectual property laws make musical creativity increasingly more challenging.
From reading the first few chapters, Demers’s writing is filled with evidence to support her points, including Metallica lawsuits (real and publicity stunts), DJ Danger Mouse’s Grey Album, and Mike Batts use of John Cage’s “4’33.” Steal This Music focuses specifically on the the influence of intellectual property laws on musical creativity and her examples give me a clear context for what she calls the absurdities the litigation places on the creative process. However, Demers does not ignore that some creatives have risen to the challenges presented by intellectual property laws. She also uses examples of artists including Ice Cube, DJ Spooky, and John Oswald as evidence of creative potential despite the legal confinements presented. I think that these examples are helpful not just in allowing me to better understand the nature of copyright laws in the world of music, but her use evidence could prove helpful in finding other sources or learning more about a specific example provided.
I am also finding this source to be helpful in understanding the complexities of the music industry. While copyright laws play on the publics sympathy for authors, “the true beneficiaries of recent IP law changes are neither authors nor consumers, but rather corporate content providers” (12). Although I have yet to come across the digital and streaming influence specifically in my reading to date, the cases and points that Demers presents helps paint a picture of the industry as a whole and how issue of creative rights are compromised even without the added limbo of digital and streaming technologies. Similarly to Blacc’s article in WIRED, Demers pays attention to ASCAP and it’s impact on creatives in the music industry. She also relates the issues of copyright in music to the issues in film, making for a well rounded examination of the entertainment field despite her specific focus on music. I’m really interested in finishing this book and look forward to seeing how the knowledge from this text can be supplemented with other texts that I have discovered in the depths of the library.