a bunch of copyright-related writings have come to my attention in recent days.
ethnomusicologist anthony mccann has been investigating the relationship between copyright and irish traditional music for some time now. he also keeps a blog, which features regular updates on notes of copyright-related interest.
in an interesting development for world copyright law, mccann recently reported (from the CNI-Copyright list) that "A battle has erupted within the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) over the most fundamental questions of its mission. A number of developing countries, lead by Argentina and Brazil, have tabled a proposal for a 'development agenda,' which involves stopping work on new treaties that hike intellectual property protections, and redirecting the agency to a range of initiatives more responsive to development and concerns of WIPO critics." you can read the declaration and sign a petition to support the effort here.
in other news, here's an article by a law prof at wayne state, brought to my attention by a friend at nyu law school. it argues that copyright law is too restrictive on the distribution side of things. the basic argument, according to my friend's email, is that the "purpose of copyright is to encourage the 1. creation *and* 2. distribution of works. As the cost of distribution approaches zero, we should loosen copyright law, because overly stringent copyright protection actually begins to hinder distribution. In fact the benefits of copyright law in that it encourages creation may be outweighed by the restraints that copyright law puts on distribution."
to some extent, this argument seems to recommend a system not unlike derrick ashong's FAM license, which, in an attempt to respond to the current predicament for recording/performing artists, actually encourages people to copy and distribute musical works. taking on the distribution side seems to be a new angle on this one, though my interests remain on the creativity side of the debate. (incidentally, the downhill battle online protest remains an impressive, audible argument against current copyright enforcement, with almost 170 entries and counting!)
interestingly, jamaica--whose music industry, at least from a creativity standpoint, remains one of the best arguments for the lack of restrictive copyright laws (after all, what would the world of music be without the riddim and the version?)--has in recent months been trying to crack down on copyright infringement. not only is this a "sisyphean task," as pete maplestone suggests, but, i think, it is a grave misunderstanding of the way that music in jamaica has always worked. sure, many musicians have been ripped off by crooked producers and greedy label-men. but it's unclear that stricter IP laws would even ameliorate this situation. more seriously, an enforcement of international (which is to say, US) copyright law could produce a chilling effect on an industry that has always openly embraced a concept of a creative commons of musical materials. the classic reggae riddims--from the 'stalag,' to the 'mad mad,' to the 'answer'--that have provided the backing (in a bewildering array of novel arrangements) for hundreds and hundreds of songs should remain common materials for musicians everywhere. the creativity of this practice speaks for itself, more eloquently than any of these words. listen, for instance, to tree of satta, or check the migrations of the mad mad that i've been following for a while.
as always, creative commons and larry lessig's blog offer nuff insight on the subject.