music

Liberate the Music!

Ludwig von Beethoven died 183 years ago. So why is his music still locked behind copyrights and not available for free to everyone? Because even if the music itself is in the public domain, the recordings of his music, or perhaps the sheet music (with special arrangements or notation) can be copyrighted by the orchestras that perform the music or the composers who notate it.

Artists vs. Copyright Law

We’ve all seen the F.B.I. notices at the beginning of DVDs and the dire warnings by the record labels: their works are “private property” and any unauthorized uses amount to “theft” or “piracy” punishable by law. It’s a big lie. There is a whole class of “unauthorized uses” that are entirely legal, not to mention necessary for education, democracy and ordinary social life. It’s called “fair use,” which is a legal doctrine of copyright law that allows anyone to excerpt and re-use film, music, books and other copyrighted works without getting advance authorization or paying any money.

Decadence and Redemption in the Music Biz

Is there such a thing as artistic integrity in music-making any more? It depends on where you turn your gaze. As Charles Dickens might say, this is the best of times and the worst of times. The music marketplace is becoming more predictable and sterile even as new Internet-based business models allow fans and artists to connect in healthy -- and yes, profitable -- ways.

Let’s start first with Jon Pareles’ depressing account in the New York Times about the proliferation of marketing tie-ins for new music.

The Commons Comes to Schlossberg Hill

“You just walk into the mountain,” I was told. And so I walked up to Schlossberg, a large hill that overlooks the city of Graz, Austria, and into a tunnel carved out of sheer rock that extended dimly into the distance. I stepped gingerly onto the metal grating that formed a inclined walkway, and proceeded in amazement for more than 100 yards. The air had the sharp tang of rock dust. I came to a huge open space — a 150-foot “auditorium” with a 40-foot ceiling — again, carved out of sheer rock.

James Joyce & Dr. Seuss: Prisoners of Copyright Law

Kevin Ryan, a Houston music producer, came up with a brilliantly creative idea: What if you set the words of Dr. Seuss’ classic children’s book Green Eggs and Ham to the music and singing of Bob Dylan? Fantastic idea! So he went into his home studio and put together a clever mashup that mimics Dylan’s nasal singing style and electric band. Check out the mp3 of the song (if it remains online) and you’ll wonder if this is a long-lost cut that Dylan never released.

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