By patrickf on Aug 14, 2006
So I've long held that copyright restrictions on music make less and less sense in a digital age. While I do support a musician's right to earn a good living from making music, I don't think it necessary that musicians become multi-multi millionaires. More to the point, I certainly don't see what service the so-called music industry (I prefer to think of it as the CD-selling industry) supplies that entitles it to cream so much off the top.
Quite simply, the record business came into being when technology made it possible to reproduce audio. Whilst the technology required to replay audio, the grammarphone, was relatively cheap and ubiquitous, the technology required to record (a recording studio), was not, and on top of that there was production and distribution of the recording. There was a value to be added there, a business opportunity. With the internet, much of it has gone. We don't need record companies to promote record sales of NSync and their ilk. We can do it for ourselves. Let's cut out the Justin-Timberlake-pushing middleman. The same forces that created a business around recording and reproducing music have now rendered it obsolete, and, judging by what the industry has done to music in the 50-or-so years that it has been around, that's probabaly a good thing.
The CD-selling industry is trying to hold back progress for the sake of a business model, but this is always dressed up as the protecting musicians to keep making music. Some musicians, such as the unfortunate Flea, it is worth noting, do buy into this.
But the arguments often ring so hollow:
Don't listen to music unless you've paid a lot of money for it first. These, er, millionaires, they need the money to be motivated to make another record. The sound quality isn't as good as on the CD. You're supporting piracy. It's illegal (even in jurisidictions where it isn't). You're harming consumer choice. You're stealing.
These arguments have always amazed me. The music industry telling people not to listen to music unless they pay many, many, many times the cost of reproducing that music, (rather than the alternative, of looking for a new business model). But today, I've come across a new line. It seems that the On-Line Guitar Archive, OLGA, beloved website of aspiring guitarists everywhere, has been closed down. The OLGA is a site where guitarists can post guitar tablature. Guitar tablature is a very rough approximation of sheet music, essentially a transcription of the position(s) on a fretboard to a specific piece of music, with little or no attention to key signature, timing, or emphasis, or indeed, the other instruments in the arrangement. It serves to help a guitarist figure out a piece, and nothing more. Anyone who has used OLGA tablature can tell you that it is never perfect, seldom complete, and little more than a guide. But it certainly helps a committed player to expand their repertoire. When I asked Jasper, a friend who actually is a professional musician, about OLGA, he replied, "I think it was the first thing I found on the internet".
Clearly, such a threat to the music industry, (people learning to play instruments), cannot stand.
According to this site, The National Music Publishers' Association ("NMPA") and The Music Publishers' Association of the United States, Inc. ("MPA"), "not-for-profit trade associations of music publishers" (they don't say if the music publishers are for-profit, I'm guessing that they might be) have informed OLGA and a number of other tablature sites that these crude approximations are illegal under the auspices of the famous Digital Millennium Copyright Act and must be removed. Why?
In so enforcing the rights of the creators and publishers of music, it is our intent to ensure that composers and songwriters will continue to have incentive to create new music for generations to come.
So while the music industry continues to worry about "incentives" for musicians, who is concerning themselves with ensuring that young people will actually learn to make music?
ps. the views expressed here are not necessarily those of my employer