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Why copyright is important to the 'small guy' musician, and why the music industry may get paid for your work while you get paid nothing.

Do you want to make a little bit of money from your music and recording? Then you need the protection of copyright law around you. It's not just for the big guys.


A recent article titled 'Piracy made legal - how will *you* benefit?' sparked a great deal of comment, which you can read on our letters page (scroll down).

To summarize the thrust of the article, we at Audio Masterclass regard musicians, songwriters and composers as being entitled to profit from their work, and deserve protection from people who would use their work without permission or reward.

So basically this means you in your home recording studio. If you write and record a great song, you should be able to make money from it if you want. Others should not be able to make money from your work, nor should they offer it freely to other people without your permission.

If you don't agree with this, then you are perfectly entitled to place your work in the public domain to allow people to use it freely.

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The problem is that there are a lot of people, who seem to congregate around the Internet for some reason, who see copyright as a 'bad thing' that must be done away with. Presumably that's because they want to get lots of free stuff. Or they have a political agenda of some kind.

However loudly these groups shout, and however seemingly plausible their arguments, copyright is not going to go away. The economies of developed countries depend on copyright law, and closely related patent law. We don't make physical stuff that much anymore. They make stuff in the Far East, and good stuff it is too. If developed nations lose the protection of copyrights and patents for their intellectual property, then they will all be going down the tubes for sure.

So copyright is here to stay without doubt.

What is at issue however is whether there should be a 'special case' made for music, where copyright law isn't seen as being so important.

So industrial designs are protected, computer software is protected, movies are protected, but music isn't.

For the small-guy musician this is clear and present danger.

All of the arguments of anti-copyright groups center around music and movies.

They see the battle as being them against the RIAA and MPAA. They want music and movies for free and expect the industry behemoths at some point to turn belly up and give in.

And unfortunately this affects the small guy too. The movie industry in the USA is so strong politically that it seems unlikely that movies will ever be made a special case under copyright law. But if copyright law is amended to make music a special case, then guess who is going to suffer most?

One possible scenario is that downloading without the copyright owner's permission is made legal, and in return ISPs are charged a levy that is returned to the music industry.

That is a plausible and scary scenario. It means the music industry will get the money. How much, Mr. Small Guy, do you think you're going to get?

Clearly nothing. Absolutely nothing. So the music industry gets paid for downloads of their own music. And they get paid for downloads of your music too.

There will be to more to say on this issue in a forthcoming article. In the meantime, we would be very pleased to receive responses with suggestions on how the small-guy musician can be protected and receive just reward for his or her work.

By David Mellor Thursday November 30, 2006