orangenius
Business Copyright

Do we need to relax copyright law?

Copywrong Movement

While the idea of copyright protection is near universal, not everyone agrees with how its implemented.  There is a growing movement among creatives who feel that the benefits afforded by copyright law strongly favor corporations and the wealthier members of society, leaving the majority at a disadvantage. Some feel that creativity is not developed in a vacuum.  We need access to the materials of popular culture to create new and meaningful art.  Copyright hampers that ability. While one can claim fair use,  that determination only occurs after a lawsuit  leaving many artists wary of creating curtain pieces for fear they will be sued.  Others claim that since the Constitution holds that copyright is only for a “limited time,” current duration of the life of the author plus an additional 70 years or for corporate works, 120 years from creation or 95 years after publication is an unconstitutional interpretation.  (Note that the Supreme Court has ruled that the term is constitutional).

Recently, three studies have been published suggesting copyright law may have some detrimental affects on creation of new artistic works.

Recently, three studies have been published suggesting copyright law may have some detrimental affects on creation of new artistic works.  In the first study, How Copyright Makes Books and Music Disappear, the researchers looked at Amazon.com’s book offerings finding far more titles created around the 1880’s were available than more recent works.  They suggest that since modern titles are still under copyright protection, that the costs of negotiating license agreements is too high vs. the potential sales for those items.  Whereas books written before 1922 are in the Public Domain and free to republish.  According to the study: ”Copyright status correlates highly with absence from the Amazon shelf. Together with publishing business models, copyright law seems to stifle distribution and access.” Surprisingly, this happens less with music on YouTube.  The takedown procedures provided by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) Safe Harbor provisions, “helps maintain some level of access to old songs by allowing those possessing copies (primarily infringers) to communicate relatively costlessly with copyright owners to satisfy the market of potential listeners.”

The second study surveyed over 5000 musicians in the United States looking at genre, income bracket, demographics, education, and many other variables and their relationship to copyright law.  The study found that composers and musicians in the top income brackets depend heavily on revenue that is directly related to copyright protection but the vast majority of other musicians do not.  The study concluded, “For most musicians, copyright does not provide much of a direct financial reward for what they are producing currently. The survey findings are instead consistent with a winner-take-all or superstar model in which copyright motivates musicians through the promise of large rewards in the future in the rare event of wide popularity.” That does not necessarily mean that copyright harms those musicians but it is certainly conceivable that media companies favor generic works with greatest long-term licensing potential, which leads to more formulaic and less creative or out-of-the-box performances.

Three main consequences; less new artists entering the market, more hit songs for those that did enter the market, and a substantial decline in revenue for the music industry overall.

A third study suggests that less copyright protection can actually results in the creation of more, not less, new music. The study finds that the mainstream concept of more revenue leads to more original works is not so simple. In many cases, those works would have been profitable with to without copyright protection.  But it’s actually the long-term licensing potential due to copyright protection that affords the increased revenue.  However, that extra income can lead to reduced output by the most popular artists.  According to the abstract, “Broader copyright may thus entail a trade-off between two marginal effects: More original works from new authors along one margin, but fewer original works from the most popular existing authors along a second. If the second effect outweighs the first, then more revenue may lead to fewer original works. Conversely, less revenue may lead to more original works.” To discover this, the study used increased in “file sharing” as a proxy for less copyright protection. The regression analysis found that increased file sharing had three main consequences; less new artists entering the market, more hit songs for those that did enter the market, and a substantial decline in revenue for the music industry overall. Whether that is good or bad is depends on where you sit.

These studies are far from conclusive, only hinting at data which supports the anti copyright movement’s contentions. As with many studies, there is many ways that the data can be interpreted as well as  many other studies that both agree with and contradict these findings.  What they do suggest however, is that Copyright’s law’s effect on creativity and society needs a closer look.  We may find certain changes may help improve it’s usefulness.  Sadly, in today’s lobbyists driven policy climate, overwhelming evidence in support of changes to copyright law would probably fall on deaf ears unless those changes were beneficial to a corporate bottom line.

Do you agree with these studies or have any comments, post them below.  We would like to hear from you.  And please post this article to your social media. 

About the author

Steve Schlackman

As a photographer and Patent Attorney with a background in marketing, Steve has a unique perspective on art and law. Should you have any questions on Intellectual Property contact him at [email protected] His photography can be seen online at Fotofilosophy.com or on display at the Emmanuel Fremin Gallery in New York City.

2 Comments

Click here to post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • So, if there were to be a relaxation of copyright laws, where does one draw the line?
    For example, should people be able to incorporate an entire movement from someone else’s musical composition into their own composition without paying royalties to the other composer? Could an artist copy an entire Warhol painting and then add a few of his own brushstrokes and call it his own?

    • That is more of a fair use argument. While it would be nice to have a bright line on what was considered fair use in “for profit” works, that analysis is very subjective and I am not sure that it is possible without completely changing how fair use is derived.

      On the other hand, many people believe that the term for copyright is too long. Even now, only works prior to 1922 are definitely in the public domain, although many others into the 1980’s may be in the public domain. But if your take the current rule for individual copyright protection, life of the author plus 75 years, and look backward, and assuming a minimum life of 25 years if the author died young, then nothing after 1913 would be in the public domain. Assume the average age of 75 years and we have to go back to the Civil War era to find works in the public domain. That seems like a long time. Only a handful of works would benefit from that length of protection.

The Latest From Artrepreneur

  • Art Walks Put California on Parade

    For most Californians, walking yields to driving as the main mode of transportation. Driving is such a driving force for the state’s residents that “Saturday Night Live” created a recurring sketch about soap opera characters […]

  • The Future is Bright, Say Art Entrepreneurs

    According to a new report by the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) the old adage of the struggling artist may officially be a myth. SNAAP’s special report, “Career Skills and Entrepreneurship Training for […]

  • Artist Profile: Natalia Nakazawa — Art, Work, and Life

    Natalia Nakazawa is a visual artist who works in mixed media to create paintings, tapestries, and collages. Her latest installation was displayed in a window of the iconic art deco Clocktower Building in Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood. The […]

  • Art Business Conferences for the Art Entrepreneur

    Are you on your way to becoming a thriving art entrepreneur? Check out these upcoming art business conferences to increase your chances for success! The post Art Business Conferences for the Art Entrepreneur appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • Eight Artist in Residence Programs to Launch Your Career

    We’ve previously reviewed how important it is to craft a bio and resume that details your art career, and today we’ll discuss one essential element that’s sure to make your career stand out: the Artist in Residence. Artist in […]

  • Write an Artist Bio to Get Noticed

    Most artists are used to expressing themselves in creative ways, but fewer understand the importance of expressing who they are in words. In this article, we'll review the creating an artist bio while offering some useful tips on its content. The […]

  • Balancing a Full-Time Job with Fulfilling Creativity

    Need more time in your day to work on creative endeavors? Here are few ideas that may help. The post Balancing a Full-Time Job with Fulfilling Creativity appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • Launching an Art Startup? These Online Resources Can Help.

    Launching your own art startup can be scary. Here are a few tips and online resources that may help. The post Launching an Art Startup? These Online Resources Can Help. appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • Expanding Your Art Business Beyond You [Part 2]

    Are you ready to expand your art business? Here's what you need to know about hiring and terminating employees, employee retirement plans and vacation and sick leave. The post Expanding Your Art Business Beyond You [Part 2] appeared first on […]

  • You Don’t Have to be an Artist to Work with Art

    Just because you don’t possess any artistic abilities – or just because you haven’t made it as an artist yet – doesn’t mean you can’t have a creative, art-filled career. There are plenty of “art […]

  • Expanding Your Art Business Beyond You

    Artists successfully running their own art business may be ready to hire an employee. We've covered everything you need to know, from tax requirements to insurance obligations. The post Expanding Your Art Business Beyond You appeared first on […]

  • What Photographers Need to Know About Shooting People [with Cameras]

    In this article, we'll review a key example of publicity and privacy issues, and what you need to know to keep your photography in the clear. The post What Photographers Need to Know About Shooting People [with Cameras] appeared first on […]

  • Getting What You Want: Basic Negotiation Tips For Creatives

    Selling and negotiating can be very intimidating. Fear not! Here are some common sense tips to negotiation that can help you get what you want. The post Getting What You Want: Basic Negotiation Tips For Creatives appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • How to Sell Art [Without Being Annoying]

    Most artists will tell you that the hardest part of their job is trying to sell their artwork to the masses. Sure, they love the creativity and the freedom being an artist provides, but how can they make a living unless they sell their work? While […]

  • Museums Deck the Halls with Holiday Cheer for All

    Check out seasonal exhibits from some of the country’s top art museums. The post Museums Deck the Halls with Holiday Cheer for All appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • Why Galleries Should Get Down with Art Fairs [A Useful Guide]

    As we're winding down from celebrating Art Basel Miami Beach, we're thinking about all the different ways galleries and artists can benefit from participating in these international art fairs. The post Why Galleries Should Get Down with Art Fairs [A […]

  • Your All Access Pass to Art Basel

    Dying to tackle Art Basel Miami Beach, but not sure where to start? You won't want to miss these stunning displays of the best of contemporary art. The post Your All Access Pass to Art Basel appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • Get Your Networking on at Miami Art Week

    Miami Art Week is the perfect time for artists to network and gather contacts to keep building an art business. Check out five events primed to bring new opportunities. The post Get Your Networking on at Miami Art Week appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • The Garment District: From Buttons and Bows to a Home for Art

    The Garment District Alliance has worked hard to evolve the area from a faded industrial center to a revitalized business district committed to bringing art to the streets. The post The Garment District: From Buttons and Bows to a Home for Art […]

  • United States of the Art: Six Destinations for the Great American Road Trip

    A cross-country road trip provides plenty of opportunities to create art. The post United States of the Art: Six Destinations for the Great American Road Trip appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • How Does a Photography Business Make Money?

    Photographers are uniquely positioned within the art world to earn money through various revenue streams. Here's how you find work. The post How Does a Photography Business Make Money? appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • The Basics of Insurance Part II: Health Insurance for Artists

    In this article, we’ll a type of insurance that you’ll want to think about as you build your art business – health insurance for artists. The post The Basics of Insurance Part II: Health Insurance for Artists appeared first on […]

  • The Emergence of the Creative Entrepreneur

    The term “starving artist” has long been part of our lexicon, signifying the significant struggle artists face bringing their creative work to market. For the lucky few that survive until they have paid their dues, the career can be […]

  • Seth Godin and Marketing for the Art World

    A good marketing strategy can help grow a business if done well. Let Seth Godin show you how to be a modern marketer in his skillshare video series. The post Seth Godin and Marketing for the Art World appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • These Five Companies Put the Art in Startup

    Technology and art are intersecting in more ways than ever, and today’s art startups are revolutionizing the way art is consumed and collected. Entrepreneurs have been intersecting art and technology since the start of the .com boom. Portfolio […]

  • The Art Museum In The Digital Age

    I talked with Steve Konick, Director of Public Relations and Marketing for the Currier Museum of Art, in Manchester, New Hampshire, to understand why art museums are still relevant The post The Art Museum In The Digital Age appeared first on […]

  • Should I Open a Corporation for My Art Business?

    About 375,000 visual artists claim to be self-employed yet many don't realize that their personal assets can be at risk. Find out how opening a corporation can help protect you. The post Should I Open a Corporation for My Art Business? appeared […]

  • Model Citizens and Protected Images: Work-for-Hire and Right of Publicity

    Last week, we discussed model releases, and an example concerning a model whose image was being used by a company in a more liberal manner than what had originally been agreed upon by the model and the company. You may recall that in this instance, […]

  • Does Copyright and Trademark Law Protect 3D Printing?

    3D printing is a relatively new art form is sweeping the internet and worrying designers and Hollywood executives alike. Along with the advent of 3D printing, a steady stream of piracy and copyright infringement cases have been reported by industry […]

  • Consider this tip before signing an International Art Contract

    Most art galleries participate in art fairs throughout the year. Many of those fairs are international, such as Art Basel Switzerland or the Hong International Art Fair. International art fairs are an excellent way to position your gallery in […]

  • Six Steps to Safer Image Sharing

    Despite the unfortunate reality that image sharing on the Internet can lead to misappropriation of your work, there are some steps that can minimize the risks. The post Six Steps to Safer Image Sharing appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • Does Freedom of Speech Protect Taking Photos of People Through Windows?

    Fine art Photographer Arne Svenson spent a year secretly taking photos of the Fosters, a family living across the street from his home. Does the Foster's Right to Privacy outweigh Svenson's Freedom of Expression? The post Does Freedom of Speech […]

  • Four Reasons Artists Should Hire Lawyers

    Think artists can't afford to hire lawyers? Actually, artists can't afford to not have one by their side. Here's four reasons why. The post Four Reasons Artists Should Hire Lawyers appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • Death and Taxes: Save Millions Through Careful Estate Planning

    Artists and collectors can minimize estate taxes on artworks by employing a planning strategy and understanding the complexities involved with assessing the work's fair market value. The post Death and Taxes: Save Millions Through Careful Estate […]

  • Can You Spot a Fake? The Trouble with Authenticating Art

    What are the challenges for collectors in authenticating artworks? What are the legal remedies when a purchased artwork is discovered to be a forgery? The post Can You Spot a Fake? The Trouble with Authenticating Art appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]