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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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The ultimate copyright strike

26 February 2020

Copyright, as a protection and law, has been around for hundreds of years.

The goal of copyright was to provide "artists" (ie: creative folk) the opportunity to earn money from their efforts by preventing others from copying and performing "creative works" without permission and possibly compensation.

As a concept, it's a laudible one.

Recent implementations of copyright law however, seem to have lost their connection with the original goals and objectives.

For example, if copyright was designed to ensure that an artist could protect their earnings from unlawful duplication or performance then there's little point in such protection extending beyond the death of the creator. Once you're dead, you no longer need copyright protection do you?

In an era when patents are only valid for less than two decades, why should copyright extend for another lifetime beyond the death of the person who creates an artistic work?

Indeed, there was a time when copyrighted works automatically fell into the public domain (for the benefit of *everyone*) after a reasonable length of time. Sadly, due to commercial pressures from large recording and movie companies, that "length of time" has repeatedly been extended until it now seems as if copyright is almost perpetual.

The public domain is being starved of legacy content that should regularly be boosting its size and scope.

There are also ridiculous inequities surrounding copyright when it comes to social media platforms such as YouTube.

YouTube wishes to avoid litigation so it treats virtually all claims as valid, regardless of the real veracity of evidence presented by the claimant.

What's more, a creator may have spent months crafting a fantastic video that is stunningly original, brilliantly creative and gob-smackingly artistic -- only to have all the revenues from that video handed over to a big publisher solely because there are a few seconds of music (perhaps not even intentionally included) that they can claim.

That's right, *all* revenues are forfeit, even if the claim represents just one percent of the video's content.

As a result of this, the major recording studios now have teams of "warriors" who are hired (at minimum wage or on commission) to do nothing but trawl YouTube all day to find infringing works and claim the revenues from them. Apparently this is "big business" and now creates a sizeable contribution to the bottom line of these music publishers -- or "leaches" as some, who have lost the fruits of their efforts to such claims prefer to call them.

However, there is now a *very* interesting twist about to be unleashed that could turn the music industry on its head and invalidate a huge swath of future potential copyright claims.

A bunch of smart-arses have used computers to create every possible melody, publish them (thus establishing that they own the copyright) and then release those melodies to the public domain.

Of course the copyrigh ton tunes that existed prior to this release will still be held by their respective publishers, however all the other (as yet unpublished) melodies will now effectively be uncopyrightable because they've been placed in the public domain.

I love it!

This will be a fantastic test for the fairness and integrity of the copyright system and those who regularly lobby for its perversion. I'm picking that we'll quickly see some changes (driven by the RIAA) which will see laws altered to exclude any "computer generated melodies" from qualifying for copyright protection. This would ensure that the copyrights asserted by Damien Riehl and Noah Ruben would be invalidated and those tunes were then able to be "reinvented" by the recording companies and copyrighted for themselves.

Of course the argument could then be that what's been created can't be uncreated and that if computer-generated melodies do not qualify for copyright protection then even when they are "recomposed" by humans, the protection of copyright can not be claimed. I'm sure that hundreds of millions of dollars in lobbying money will soon create a work-around for that piece of logic so as to ensure the recording industry is able to continue its gangster-like abuse of copyright with impunity.

Whatever the outcome, I can't wait to see how this pans out. I have my popcorn and soft-drink and I'm seated comfortably... let the entertainment commence!

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