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Whilst our solution to the copyright and piracy issues contained in this article are the eventual way forward, getting there is going to be one very hard and long slog.

Another idea on the right path can be taken up by musicians NOW as an alternative way of making a living from their music.

Once adopted on a large scale, this method will also turn music piracy into a thing of the past. A "White Paper" was written in 2003 after a study of these issues, and predicts a number of trends that are sure to become the music distribution model of the future.

Of course, even after 3 years, virtually no-one has started on the path towards turning these predictions into reality - UNTIL NOW!

Download the PDF here, and read about the future of music distribution.

We intend to be the one of the first record companies to use this distribution model to the benefit of our signed artists.

If you want to earn money from making records in the future, this is the way to go!


(Skip to conclusion)

These are the questions we see cropping up time and time again...

"How can I copyright my song?"
"How can I stop people from stealing my song?"

Copyright laws are relatively new. In fact, the laws as we know them were born in the same year as me, 1956, and came into force in 1957. Prior to that, copyright laws had existed in some form since the invention of the printing press. They were originally designed to regulate the book trade. All books and manuscripts had to be licensed with the Stationers Company before they could be copied. They didn't want copies of any work getting out to the public that could have been used to discredit the Crown or the Government.

This worked fine for early music too, as sales were predominently on manuscript. Recordings and broadcasts didn't start to gain in significant numbers until the 1950's and most of the general public didn't have the means to record copies themselves. Piracy, was relatively rare. The work of organised crime, not the individual.

Some amendments to the Copyright Act have been made since then but nothing radical enough has yet been done to ensure that copyrights can be efficiently protected in the digital age. WOBBLY MUSIC, with your help, aims to change all that!

For the past 50 years, record companies have had a relatively easy way of making vast profits. They could pick and choose a small number of artists to promote with large budgets. For those few artists, this was great, but it meant that millions of others were being virtually excluded from any chance of making a viable living in the recording industry at all. The public were virtually being "told" what kind of music and what artists they "should" like. In other words, styles and genres of music were being "rationed" in mainstream promotion in order to gross large incomes for a few selected artists, and thus the largest profits for the record companies themselves.

Copyright laws helped to sustain this by ensuring that the record companies had full control over their artists AND their songs, and of course, the actual recordings. Perfectly good songs that a diverse record-buying public would like to be able to purchase at any time, are purposely deleted from the record companies catalogues and held in their archives, never to see the light of day again except for the occasional airing on the "oldies" radio stations.

But music is one of the primary devices that helps the average human being to be nostalgic. Just because a song leaves the charts, it doesn't mean that it has left our hearts. If we need to replace our copy years down the line, or indeed, buy it because we have only just heard it, or have grown to like it, we don't want to have to spend time searching junk shops or collectors fairs, just because the record company have it gathering dust in their vault and refuse to sell us a copy.

This is not an isolated problem, either! A typical music-lover, based in the UK, recently tried to buy a download of an out of print album from one of the major online suppliers. It was available from their US site, but was not available on the UK version of the site, that British users are forced to use, despite the fact that it was a British band! Not only that... even if it had been available on the UK site, it would have been 30% more expensive for exactly the same product.

Now, there used to be a good reason for this practice of deleting old material... The licensing, pressing and distribution of vinyl records was an expensive business. So after the initial promotion and surge of sales it just wasn't viable to continue with pressing and distribution for the sake of relatively few sales.

Now, of course, things are immensely different! It now costs virtually nothing to sell a download on the net. It has no physical form and therefore no manufacturing costs, and there are no shipping costs and breakages to worry about... So why do the major record companies persist in keeping a large chunk of their back catalogues offline?

Well, part of this could be due to the cost of Licensing a batch for distribution to ensure that the mechanical royalties in the songs go to the authors, but it is more likely to be due to the ridiculous practice of "rationing" the music.

Ultimately, there is a finite amount of cash available to be spent by the record-buying public. The record companies, after spending millions on a few particular artists, don't want to see their potential customers spending their money on a local band's independent release, or an issue from their back catalogue at cut price. So they make pretty sure that you can't spend your money on anything else but the artists THEY want you to like.

"But surely, people buy whoever they like as a matter of free will?"

So you would like to think! But a lot of psychology goes into marketing the latest "Fad". Take the average teenager...If they heard different records on the radio every day, they would probably buy fewer records as they wont have heard any one record frequently enough to get to like it. If their friends buy a certain record, it is most likely that they would buy the same one. This is the "sheep" factor, and it is a fact of life. So bearing this in mind, if you play a select few records day in and day out for several weeks, it is highly likely that you will sell a lot more of them, and as soon as a few have bought them, many of their friends want them too. It is the reasoning behind this "fact of life" that has led to the recent "Payola" scandal.

Meanwhile, if those same kids had enough time left to listen to other music instead, and to choose for themselves, things would probably be a lot different. They would most likely choose something that encompasses certain memories for them, or moves them on an emotional level. This would be more likely to be a local band that they had the opportunity to see playing live, than some manufactured image in a far-away continent.

So...going back to the copyright itself, there are three good reasons why most people would not want to steal your songs...

1. No-one can legally claim the right to another persons creation.
2. Publishers rarely "buy" the copyright to songs (not for the large sums that people may dream of, anyway).
3. Without a good recording, and the intensive and costly marketing of it, a song would be highly unlikely to make any money anyway!

So why do cases keep coming up in court?

Well, many of them get thrown out through lack of proof, one way or the other. These days, writing a totally original and unique song that is still pleasant to hear (i.e. not an avante garde cacophony of dischordant or random notes) is almost impossible, because all the pleasant sounding permutations have already been used (after all there are only 12 notes in the western scale). So most songs are now just coincidental collections of bits of other songs that the songwriter may have heard over the years and completely forgotten about. Therefore, if one of these coincidences turn out too similar to another song, a law suit may well be brought to court.

The main criteria for the prosecution is the amount of evidence required. Establishing the fact that the new song sounds similar to yours, is the easy bit. What is more difficult is establishing that the perpetrator had access to your song before he wrote his one. You can only do this if you have clear and concise records (preferably backed up by witnesses), as to the dates and occasions where the perpetrator had access to your song. If your song has already been a hit and has been widely played on the radio, that is pretty good evidence! If not...you may have a hard job on your hands!

Let's take a look at the basic law of copyright as it stands...

Firstly, a copyright exists from the moment the creator creates it. However this is impossible to prove without some kind of tangible evidence and at least one witness. So for the sake of proof it is generally not considered "created" until it is either written down or recorded in some way.

Secondly. except in the case of a formally written contract, or in the death of the creator a copyright cannot be transferred to another person. You can't just "give" your song to your best friend on his wedding day without a specially written and legally binding contract. If he tried to get a record made of the song without it, there would be too many legal complications.

Thirdly, depending on which country the creator lives in, there may be other moral rights that the creator has in addition to his copyright that prevents another from using his work without strict prior approval, and even then...perhaps when you have done all the work making his song into something really special, the creator could change his mind and not let you release it. You then have the dilema in that you are being prevented from excercising your own creative rights.

Fourthly, some countries have virtually no copyright laws at all, but with the USA laws being the most widely known... who is to know this?

And finally, if you have innocently and completely unknowingly plagiarised someone else's creation, it is seen as no defence to copyright infringement. Provided they have some proof that there is a good chance you had already heard their song on the radio, there is little you can do. Maybe you never even listen to the radio, but since you haven't gone through life gathering the evidence that you don't listen to the radio, that is just tough luck!

It is totally impossible for any one person to know every song that has been written during the past 100 or so years, and purposely avoid re-writing it. Yet, that is what the copyright laws expect you to be able to do!

So now let's look at Piracy...

The music industry has been quick to blame the filesharers for the huge losses that are now occuring. There is no doubt that intellectual property in any form, is now very easy to steal. This is because without the media it is recorded on, it has no substance, it is just an idea; or a few bits of data on a disk drive that can easily be copied onto another disk drive anywhere in the World. Quite a large proportion of the art world can be turned into data and copied endlessly around the World. Pictures, photos, books & magzines can be scanned. Music can be ripped from CDs (or even recorded by the old fashioned analogue method directly from a CD player or record deck into the line-in of a computer soundcard), films can now be compressed so that even the large files from a DVD that was once their inhibiting factor, can fit easily on a single CD; and let's not forget the software itself...the thing that started the whole process off was probably the first thing to be stolen!

A songwriter will have that song in his head before he puts it onto paper. And it's relatively safe so long as that one manuscript is all that exists of it. But the most important thing that drives every artist into the process of creating, is the need for their work to be enjoyed by as many people as possible. Even if the creator is primarily catering for his own desires; finding like-minded people who confirm that they love it too, is the one thing that motivates him to create more...and more...and more.

Next to this are the people who don't create, but believe they have "discovered" this creation and want to tell everyone about it. These are the artists fans. These are the people who are doing the filesharing. So we have another dilema. On the one hand the artist feels he should be paid for that work, but on the other hand, he knows that without those fans, he may not have the motivation to carry on creating, let alone the potential of earning an income from his work.

So who is really completely and totally against all forms of piracy? The artists?

Well some are, of course...but most of those are the ones who have already made a profit from their creations and want to carry on making more and more profit...just like the record companies. On the other hand, those who are in favour of filesharing, generally put forward one kind of argument.

Citizen Ted, a contributor to one of the newsgroups I visit, encompasses this argument in the following rant.... (Yes I did ask his permission to use it!)....

"The RIAA is technophobic. It has taken years and years of stepping on their throats to get them to offer high-quality downloads online. And they did it only grudgingly, and did it only with powerful partners like Apple. The RIAA refuses to step outside its obscenely profitable world of $17.99 CD's that feature three songs you like and 11 you can live without. They are gougers and scumbags all. And the next time the RIAA complains about ANYONE "taking advantage of artists", my hypocrisy meter is going to explode.

The end of Grokster means nothing. The dissemination of P2P software is a cakewalk. Some enterprising youth will develop a new interface. It will spread via viral online sharing. Everyone will get it and use it. There will be no entity to sue except the file sharers, and we all know how well that approach works for the RIAA's PR. And catching the sharers will only become more difficult.

Programs like Garbage, promise to add security to the sharing process. Improvements in the Garbage approach will continue unabated. The RIAA is rolling a boulder uphill. It cannot win.

The way I see it, what we are experiencing a paradigm shift in the industry. This shift is not one of "stolen flies, the artist gets ripped off". It's more like the initial advent of recording.

A century ago, a musician or songwriter had to play live to make any money. Then, Edison gave us wax cylinders. The musician could have his music sent far and wide, and he received a few measly bucks for the privilege. To make any real money, he had to perform. And to make money performing, he had to be *good*.

This continued for years, until the advent of a dark partnership between radio and recording in the 1950's. Now a label could force its goods down the throats of the listening audience. Pay to play. Popular music became another corporate commodity, like laundry soap. It was no longer an artistic device that lived or died by the tastes of the musical public. It was a product to be marketed and sold.

As the years went by, the recording industry became even more crass in its exploitation of the music business. Trends were no longer recorded and shared with the public; they were tracked and calculated to maximize profit. It was the rare Bob Dylan who was able to get radio play and enjoy success. Most ground-breakers were relegated to the back burner, as they couldn't be mindlessly marketed. More often, musicians with talent and merit found themselves "moving refrigerators" while pond scum like Milli Vanilli rocketed up the charts. (Yes, I'm generalizing; many great artists have found success, but it was usually against the Industry's "better judgement".)

We now have an immovable, monolithic marketing machine - *not* a thriving musical industry. It's corrupt, it's disgusting, and it deserves to die." Citizen Ted.

Well, I'm not so sure that it deserves to die, but it certainly could do with a massive reform. Things are changing and its happenning too fast for the industry to cope. Instead of finding new ways to use the technology to replace lost profits, the music industry is insisting we all shoo away this demon and continue to line their pockets and the pockets of their few "chosen artists" just as we have done for the past 50 years. The "chosen artists" are up there with them. "We have made this record and you should pay for it!" they all say. "If you want your own copy of my record, buy it, otherwise be content with hearing it on the radio!"

Great! ... But what about the rest of us? Can we all be heard regularly on the radio?

Let's go back to Citizen Ted for his answer...

"It's my belief that we are witnessing the end of the Industry as we know it. I will be delighted when this happens. I firmly believe that great musicians will continue to make great music. But if they want to make money off their music, they will have to do what Rudi Vallee and Frank Sinatra did: PERFORM. And you'd better be damn good, too. 'Cuz Sinatra don't share da stage wit any old bum, capice?

Yet recordists need not fear. Musicians and songwriters will still want to record their music. The online distribution of their music will occur, but it won't be as profitable. It will be like the early days of vinyl: your music will precede you, but you must wow the crowd if you want to earn your supper.

This will be a good thing. Crap like Milli Vanilli and Kid Rock will expire in the dustbin, and vibrant, innovative songwriters will perform and record and - most importantly - get their art into the ears of many many people. And that is the goal, isn't it?

The days of "getting signed" should end. Until you've put in your time writing and performing, you won't see any success. And if you do become popular, you won't be able to put out one record every four years, do 15 arena shows, then sit in LA counting your millions. F**k ya.

Personally, I'm not a big MP3 hound. In the heyday of Napster, I pretty much filled up with "lost CD's" - MP3's of albums I already bought but lost. I wanted some nostalgia. With the current music scene so glutted with utter crap, I had no impetus to download new music that was for sale up the street. It all sucked.

Then, I started getting into ambient electronica. I started composing at home. I started listening (almost exclusively) to streaming Internet radio. Today, I listen to streaming radio daily (no goddamn commercials - just music!). When I hear a song I like, I look it up on Amazon. Then I visit the label's website and buy the CD. I can safely say that this was how I came to purchase 99% of all the CD's I've bought in the last three years (about 50-60CD's). I don't file swap. The MP3's sound like s**t, anyway. I'm glad to buy good music from talented people and put a buck or two in their pockets.

But guess what? The RIAA wants to kill streaming radio, too. Why? Because they have no control over the *marketing*. They have all these stupid "communications" degrees and are so steeped in corporate evil that they can't stand to see music appreciators do their job - better - for them. It irritates the s**t out of them.

From my perspective, if a bunch of acne-covered brats want to share Britney MP3's, more power to 'em. They are assisting artists by dissembling the Industry.

Once the greedheads are out of the way, we can get back to the business of writing, performing and recording music. We won't have Sony-built insta-stars anymore, but we will ALWAYS have lots of great music." Citizen Ted.

I totally agree with what Ted says here, but not all artists perform live. There are plenty of new artists who only record, and their art is just as worthwhile as the performing artists work.

So nothing is going to change without some major reforms. I intend to point the way here, rather than watching the music industry to go down the pan whilst waiting for governments to do what must be done.

First of all we have to be sympathic to ALL artists, not just the few already at the top. For simplicity, I'm only going to talk about music artists here, but the same things can also be applied to painters and film-makers, etc...

What do Artists want from Copyright?

There are a number of ways artists want to distribute their work.

  1. Public Domain. Some artists don't want their work covered by a copyright, or would prefer to give their creations to the World anonymously.
  2. Royalty-Free - Some artists would like to be acknowledged as the creator of the work, but want to give it away for free and are not bothered about ever earning money from it.
  3. Some artists want to be able to potentially earn a living from their art, but either have certain works they wish to give away, or would like their work to be freely available to certain people or businesses (such as a new artist looking for support from radio stations. Why should a radio station have to pay me to "advertise" my new song to the record-buying public?)
  4. Some artists would like to earn money from sales of CDs, but are happy to let people freely broadcast or publically perform their songs and share them as MP3s.
  5. Some artists don't want any of their songs to be broadcast, copied, shared, rented, or sold without strict permission and/or money exchanging hands.

At the moment, copyright exists primarily to protect those in category 5. But it is my opinion that this category probably covers the smallest percentage of all the artists that are out there.

It is my belief that an artists' main aim is to be heard. Even among those who have their hands tied by their record companies, there are artists who wish they could be allowed to freely distribute the odd song or demo that the record company refuses to release. As a rule, this is strictly against certain clauses in their contract and leads us to why artists (particularly those who write their own songs) have been petitioning for more freedom within their contracts. Some artists have brought cases to court at great expense to try and free themselves from such contracts, but as far as I know, all who tried have lost.

So if the stars can't get anywhere, where does that leave the rest of us? Many of us believe that we can do whatever we like with our own songs, yet still want the protection within the law when something goes wrong. Effectively, this should be the case, but I hear of many cases where this is just not happening. Take the following scenarios...

  1. A band registers with a Performing Rights Organisation that collects performance royalties from radio stations and venues on their behalf, only to find that they now have fewer performance opportunities open to them because some independent radio stations and unlicenced venues aren't allowed to play their music or let them perform live, because they haven't paid their PRO for the priviledge of allowing them to publically perform their own original music! To make things worse, even when the band play in a venue that is licensed by the PRO, the band don't even receive their fair share of those royalties because the agency calculates which artists get a share of the royalties collected, by monitoring only radio playlists! For instance, I've played in two bands who only ever played their own original music. Over the years I've played hundreds of gigs at dozens of venues licenced by PPL and PRS, yet even though I am a performer member of PPL, I've never received a penny in royalties from any of those performances.
  2. A songwriter registers with a collection agency in order to collect mechanical royalties from any record sales, only to discover that in order to release his CD independently, or through a small indie label or producer, they have to pay a fee to his agency before he is allowed to copy his own music! - My label is registered with PPL in the UK. I have around twenty artists who have so far released dozens of songs. Because many of them don't sell, I can't possibly afford to pay advance mechanicals to the songwriter's PRO. My deal is to cover this fee in their overall royalty for the release. I therefore can only sign songs that haven't yet been registered.

The music industry will almost always be on the side of those who are raking in the most money. They don't care about "Band-X" who may at best only ever be likely to sell a couple of thousand CDs and get airplay on a few local radio stations. Yet to the members of the band, selling 2000 CDs is an achievement that could earn them up to £1000 each and put them well on the way towards making a living out of what they love to do. Why shouldn't they benefit from the freedom to copy, broadcast or sell their own music without recourse from the various collection agencies and without missing out on other royalties that may be due to them from other territories in the World?

Territories?? - Now, that is amusing! Why on earth, in today's reality of the World Wide Web, should record companies still persist in distributing music only to certain "territories" at certain prices? Why should the price of a CD or download in Korea be cheaper than the same CD or download in the UK? Why should your music be a best-seller in the USA, but be banned by the government of ever seeing the light of day in China? OK, there are still political agendas to consider (that just goes to prove how immature the human race is...but that's another rant!), but this sort of segregation isn't what artists want.

Music should be Universal!

  • What is the first sector of society to come to the aid of the people who are starving in some parts of the World ... The musicians? ...CORRECT!
  • Which sector of society always seem to get together and work for free whenever there is money to be raised for a good cause? ... You guessed it! ... The musicians!

Why do we never see Lawyers, Plumbers or Doctors, doing this? Most of them earn more than the average musician anyway. Surely they could spare the time to write a few contracts; or repair a few pipes; or do a few operations for free?

So to recap...What do we need the music industry to do for us and our fans?

  1. Filesharing is here to stay. Our fans want access to our music...ALL of our music, any time they wish. They don't want to be accused of stealing, but they want to share our music with their friends and be free to play it on the various devices they may own. They want to choose for themselves what to listen to, not be told by the record companies what they should listen to. They want to make their own compilations of their favourite music and burn it to CD. If they spend good money on a pre-made CD, they want good songs, good sound quality, good photography or graphics, and added value for their money.
  2. Songwriters want to be sure their rights are protected. They want people to pay them if they use their songs, yet still have the choice to give away the odd sample as they see fit. They don't want to have to worry whether they have inadvertantly plagiarised someone else's song. They want to be fairly certain that no-one else can steal their song, or at least not be able to profit from the deed.
  3. Musicians & producers want their contributions to be respected and have the chance to earn from people listening to their performances, whether it is live, or on a recording.
  4. Bands want to be able to perform and/or record cover versions of songs without having to worry whether the author(s) would allow it (that's assuming we can even find out who wrote the thing in the first place!... or, who now owns the copyright!)
  5. Record Companies want to protect their recordings and be sure that no-one will be profiting from sampling chunks of it for another record without being credited as a source and receiving a share of any profits.
  6. Musicians and songwriters want freedom within their contracts. They want to retain control over their music but without stepping on anyone else's toes.
  7. Whilst we still have the need for contracts, they should be simplified to the point of not requiring a lawyer to translate it for you. No record company should be allowed to change their mind and not release a record, or withdraw it from sale and leave it festering in an archive. No songwriter should be allowed to refuse a recording to be released after they had previously agreed to let it be recorded. No musician should be allowed to withdraw their contribution from a recording after wilfully giving that performance.
  8. Contracts should be open agreements where all parties can contribute to the marketing and promotion, as it would be in everyone's interest to have as many people as possible plugging the recording. Rights owners should be free to negotiate sub contracts, licensing, extra releases by a third party; etc, without being tied down to exclusive arrangements with one company for long periods of time.

The music industry will most probably say that you can't have it all ways, or that there is no way that your rights can be fully protected if you want to allow your music to be shared on the internet for free.

This is all rubbish!

There is a simple way that everyone can be protected, earn what is rightfully theirs, and still have the freedom to do whatever they want with their music...

  • SIMPLIFY - The copyright laws are complicated enough as it is. You virtually can't do anything in the music business that doesn't carry some restriction, or need for a license, or is likely to infringe someone's moral or intellectual rights. Multiply this by the number of countries in the World, each with their own laws and regulations and you've just stepped on a veritable minefield with little room to escape! What is needed is one simple law of copyright that applies the same to everyone the World over.
  • CLASSIFY - Someone must have thought it a good idea to give every creator the copyright to his creations automatically from the moment of creation, but doesn't the fact that it is automatic also remove the creators right to allow free use of his creations? Why do we need so many ways of proving this right, and so many different "registration organisations", when having just one way would be more effective? What is needed is a simple way to classify the different rights that are required, and provide the clarification and the platform required to express these rights in one single place and with one single process.
  • DISTRIBUTE - We no longer need "Territories". Music is now accessible from anywhere with an internet connection. Although physical CDs may still have limited areas of distribution, there is no reason for their online counterparts to be restricted. People in Japan for instance, may not understand the lyrics of the latest UK hit, but they still want to hear it! A CD or MP3 should be the same price no matter where you are in the World, even if there are shipping costs to consider. After all, what you may lose in shipping costs to fans abroad, you gain in increased sales. Ethnic music may be more popular in their immediate area, yet there are still plenty of people in other countries that like to explore sounds that are still "new" to them. The distribution of all music needs to be controlled from one central point. Computers are powerful things nowadays. There is no reason why someone couldn't set up one large database that could hold all the World's music. Do that, and all the problems we have now could be solved at once.

Here's how....

First we need a new kind of copyright legislation that applies to everyone the World over. What I suggest is to remove the right of automatic copyright, and have it so that your creation is only copyrighted when you upload it to the ONE central database.

For those songwriters who are not interested in earning money for their creations, they simply release it independently or anonymously for free. (no-one will pay for this music...I'll explain why, shortly). This "unregistered" music will be public domain & copyright-free. Anyone would be free to copy it as they wish. If someone takes a copyright-free piece of music from the public domain and then registers it as their own, it must be accepted, as the original author didn't want to make any money from it anyway! However, what if the author explicitly wants it to remain in the public domain and always free? Well, they could simply upload a copy of it to the database and have it encoded "Public Domain", so then anyone else trying to copyright the same song will be refused.

To copyright your song should be simple, and what's more, it should be FREE. All songwriters will need to do, is upload their new songs as MIDI files of the melody only, with the lyrics attached. A simple peice of software can then immediately search every other song that's ever been copyrighted (uploaded), to check if your new song is similar to any of them. Based on certain criteria governed by the new law, if the result comes back that your song is too similar to another one, it will be rejected for full copyright, but could still be accepted as a derivative version of the original song. This would then be on record and both authors would earn royalties from it. Alternatively, the second author may just decide to go off and re-write the whole song.

Problem number one is now solved...plagiarism and copyright infringement will be virtually non-existant!

Record companies will upload their master recordings together with the MIDI file of the melody and lyrics. The software will then register that version of the song and both parties (the author and the record company and all the performers on the record) will earn the relevant royalties from its use.

Problem two is now solved ... No more filling in of forms, searching for the original copyright holders, or applying for mechanical licenses! Songs are automatically matched to every version that is recorded and the correct percentages are automatically paid to the correct people from every use.

Protection of the recordings from others sampling their material will be much harder to detect. A few may be found by the MIDI file similarity check, provided all the melodic parts were programmed as the "melody", but other stuff, such as parts of an arrangement, would be missed. For this, we would most likely need specialist software combined with a panel of professional "listeners", who check every "suspect" recording uploaded for parts that sound familiar. Whilst this still may not find all occurencies, it would be likely to find many samples of previous hit records. This is not a complete solution, and requires further discussion, but it is still far better than the procedures currently in place, where we have to rely solely on mix artists coming forward and admitting what recordings they've sampled in the hope that the original owners will permit their use. Many of them just don't bother to ask permission, just in case it is refused. With this new system, they can be assured that their creations won't be refused (unless they have done something immoral) so they would be much more likely to come clean and list all the recordings they've sampled when they register their copyright. These could then be immediately linked to their new version and royalties could then be shared.

This system could also cut out many of the "middle men", such as publishers and song scouts. The reality is that once a song is registered, comprehensive search facilities can be used by an "end user" to find the perfect song for his requirements. He then either selects a recorded version that has already been made, and applies for the license to use it, or he makes his own recording of the song and uploads the master together with the original midi song file. The author will gain all the benefits under their copyright without the use of a publisher. So would we still need publishers for distributing the song in manuscript form? ... Not necessarily. Any midi file can be printed out as a score. These could be downloaded from the same database, either as PDF files, or via a simple built-in program that can display and print the music directly from the midi file. Arrangers can upload their arrangements of the songs for bands or orchestras and again, not have to worry about gaining permission from the author as the author will always be paid. Orchestras can then obtain all the musical arrangements they want, and print off as many copies as they need! No more scouting around dusty music archives in large stores looking for a new piece of music to play.

No doubt there will still be a few exceptions...not every "end user" will find a ready recorded version of their chosen song that is suitable; and may not have the imagination to listen to a song in its bare form and know it is right for their artist or film soundtrack. Therefore, some songwriters will still want to record demos, and some songwriters and end users will still want to consult with their publishers and song scouts who, as we know, have certain skills and contacts that a "search engine" could never replace. I would suspect that these highly skilled individuals will eventually cease to be known as "Publishers" or "Song Scouts", and instead will be known as "Music Consultants" or "Music Business Managers"

OK, so where is all this revenue coming from? Who is going to pay for these incredibly large servers and all the administration that comes with it?

Well, we all are, of course!

This is how we solve the last, and perhaps the biggest problem ... Piracy!

For the day to day running of the service and personal access to every song that has ever been recorded, all we need to do is attatch a statutory "License Fee" to everyone's monthly Internet Service Charge or line rental. A nominal fee of perhaps £5 per month would be sufficient to cover costs AND pay all the artists a royalty in accordance with the "personal usage" of their tracks.

This means that anyone can download, swap, share and play any recording as they please for no extra cost. Since this will lead to the perception that music is a "free" commodity, Piracy will be almost non-existant and filesharing would be acceptable as no-one would have anything to gain (or lose) from doing it. Most importantly, the owners of the music will be paid for it from the statutory fee, so they wouldn't be losing out to the filesharers.

I accept that some arguments may arise. If the filesharers are duplicating their own files (that they may or may not have legally downloaded from the copyright site), then the musicians could still be losing out, as all the uses of their music wont be recorded. The answer to this is to regulate the file sharing services to instal software that "counts" every file that is shared. This report can then go back to the copyright service to add to their records for the purpose of distribution of royalties. Since every file will be encoded with an ID number or special watermark when the copyright is registered, it will be relatively simple to trace how many have been downloaded and who is due royalties.

There may still be some piracy trading in CDs, but I think it will be an extremely small market compared to how it is today. Here's why.... All songs (in MP3 format) will be available to download. These downloads will be percieved as "free" because no money will change hands at the point of sale. Therefore CDs, will be issued in much smaller quantities as "Collectors Items". They will be of high quality with added value extras. Thus the packaging alone would probably be much too expensive for the average "Pirate" to consider reproducing, and no-one in their right mind will buy a grotty pirated CD when they can legally download good MP3's whenever they wish.

So it will then be the business of the artists and record companies to concentrate on marketing their products rather than selling copies. Instead of "selling" downloads on your site, you simply link directly to your songs on the main database. This will ensure that payments are made to all the relevant people. You will no longer have to worry about paying for eCommerce solutions. If you still want to sell CDs, have registered the copyright in your recordings, and there are no other parties holding any rights to your recordings, then it is acceptable to distribute and sell them yourself. But make sure that your CDs have that "added value" or people will simply download the MP3's from the main database.

Of course, the independent musicians giving away their copyright-free music, will just have it available for download from their site, or from any free mp3 site. No-one will need to worry whether their registered song has been "stolen" by any of these people because there would be no profit in distributing songs as downloads or as plain CDs. The commercial "end users" of songs will know that any music found outside the main database will be copyright-free or public domain, and therefore will not offer any money for it.

The collection agencies who currently collect royalties for the mechanical use of songs, or for public performance rights, etc, will still be doing the same job in checking that all commercial end users, venues, radio stations, etc are members of the main database and are therefore obtaining the rights to use the music through this central service and not via their "personal use" license.

This is how I see it...

"Personal use license" - Everyone pays a statutory monthly fee via their service provider. This gives them the right to download any recording in MP3 format for their own personal use, but they do not have access to the song files, full bandwidth audio files, or music scores. Every download each person makes is counted and every person involved in those recordings will get a proportional share of the main fund, administered on a monthly basis. Knowing that downloading from the main copyright site will automatically benefit all artists and copyright holders, will encourage more people to obtain their music this way, instead of via friends and other unrecognised sources.

"Record company License" - Producers, arrangers and record companies can download the song files and music scores in addition to any MP3, and are automatically given the right to record and/or arrange it, provided its end use doesn't infringe the author's moral rights that will be listed with each song. Arrangers can then upload and copyright their new arrangements, which are then linked to the authors of the song automatically. If an ensemble later downloads that arrangement, both parties will be paid. If a record company plans to release a song, or a particular arrangement of the song in the form of a CD, tape or vinyl, they will apply for this use at the time they upload and register their new arrangement; and/or their recording for phonographic copyright. Mechanical royalties will then be deducted from their account and their sound recording will be automatically made available as an MP3 and linked to all parties involved for royalty distribution. Further "pressings" on any form of media can be added and paid for through their account at any time.

"Performer's License" - Performing bands, ensembles and orchestras can access the "Score Library" of songs that various arrangers have copyrighted their new arrangements of. Full printouts of the scores available for any kind of ensemble can be accessed on a "set fee per score" basis.

"Soundtrack or Library License" - Those wishing to use master recordings will pay fees and be able to download the master (uncompressed) audio files. They will be allowed to use it for a specified amount of time. This will be monitored by the collection agencies.

"Radio and broadcast License" - Similar to the soundtrack license. Instead of paying "per play" as they do now, they can download the uncompressed audio files and pay to use them for a specified amount of time. They will no longer need to buy and maintain their own record libraries. A radio producer can download every song he wants to air in a week, and just pay for that period of useage. For live request shows, the station could stream selections directly from the database by paying for a special fast link.

"Venue License" - Statutory fees are collected in the usual fashion for all venues playing recorded music. Jukeboxes linked to the main database can stream any song via a fast network connection, a percentage of the revenue collected adds to the main fund. Live music also carries a statutory fee to cover bands that may play cover versions of registered songs.

So there you have it! ... My solution to all the problems surrounding music copyright. I know there will be a certain amount of opposition to these ideas. After all, many people don't like to see things changing and they will argue that the current copyright laws have worked for a long time. But the simple fact is that the way in which intellectual property can be copied is now available to billions of people around the World. Things have changed, and the law, and the music business as we know it, needs to change to accommodate that fact.

Yes, it will require some money to set up, but on an International scale, it would be peanuts! Some of the collection agencies, and the US copyright office, are already implementing systems that are part of the way there. All they need to do is agree to join forces into one big simplified system.

That small change in the copyright law, as I explained above, and the co-operation of the Nations of the World, are all that would be required. Then we can bury all these minor problems such as copyright infringement and piracy forever!

Now please browse the rest of our site and check out the kind of services Wobbly Music currently provides for songwriters, musicians and music lovers.

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