wayne&wax

linkthink re: hip-hop, reggae, the US, jamaica, and anything else wayne wants to wax on

5.10.2006

this is a hold up


last night during electro-class, local wiki-wiz sam klein (semi-pictured above) gave us a great overview of how one participates in wikipedia. he showed us the ins and outs of edits and discussions and talked about some of the conventions of the form, which will be helpful as we attempt to add to the growing body of knowledge on electronic music at wikipedia. (ahem, what's your cyberstrategy?) it is clear that there is a strong community of engaged wikipedians - some of whom like to hear the sound of thousands of edits as birdsong - attempting to refine and expand an increasingly rich digital commons (which, at about two edits a second [!], is growing at an unbelievable pace).

sam also urged us to "commons" our music (which we can do, in part, at least for those of our productions that don't employ copyrighted materials). wikimaniac that he is, sam advocated for wikicommons, though obviously creative commons provides another way to license our own work in such a way that it can encourage and enable "derivative" works.

it was a good suggestion and something that i should have put more emphasis on over the course of the semester. one of the biggest problems with the contemporary copyright regime is that its overreaching restrictions and protections are, at least in the US, applied automatically to any and all works as soon as they're created or "fixed" - unless one takes measures to reserve only certain rights. (that's right: all myths aside, you don't have to mail yourself a copy of the thing.)

that means the burden is on us as creators to assert our rights, including our right to give away certain "rights" that we feel impoverish our creative culture. as we saw in yesterday's post, all i had to do - and this is often the case - was to make my desires as a creator known, and the "publishing group" and i were able to revise the licensing agreement. it does, however, require a certain proactive approach, which means that the majority of works pass into copyright prison despite that their creators might be more than happy to allow others to build on their work.

the climate that current copyright creates is a stifling one not just because it automatically shrouds new works in an excess of protective armor, but because it encourages those with the power to distribute other people's works to assert degrees of ownership over them that are, at base, unfair. this is what was happening in the contract sent to me by publisher x. and i'm glad that they were able to be rather fair and flexible in offering me a non-exclusive contract when i pressed them on it. but it doesn't always work so easily, and sometimes - especially for up-and-coming, independent artists - asserting one's rights can cost one an important opportunity.

take the case of a local friend of mine who happens to be an up-and-coming, independent producer. when he was asked to contribute a track to a compilation on a small label (but bigger than him), he sought some legal advice and attempted to assert some minimal rights over his work that they would be distributing. the nature of the biz - thanks in part to copyright and thanks in part to capitalism (inseparable as they are) - is that all parties attempt to assert the maximum rights they can. contracts on both sides are written up in such a way that neither party can reasonably agree, so it becomes a question of who has more power in the negotiation (which is also tied into $$$ for lawyers). when a small label attempting to distribute the work of a smaller artist is presented with such a contract, often the reaction is: whoa, dude, we don't have time/money to negotiate this, so thanks but no thanks. end of deal. that sucks, for everyone.

this is a hold up.

why not a new system with fewer automatic restrictions? why not, at least for people at a certain tier of the biz, a system like what becca proposes, wikily? why not non-exclusive deals all around? why can't we all be our own distributors? distribute the distribution? that would seem more efficient, even for the market-oriented folk out there (who probably don't read this here blog anyhow). is the only problem with such a model that access to distribution channels is unequal, leaving, say, first-world (or wealthy) collaborators with practical monopolies on distribution? are "fair trade" models working? i'm curious. really.

meantime, i encourage all you content-producers out there to take a more active role in licensing your work. the internet makes it easier than ever before. what's your cyberstrategy?

1 Comments:

Anonymous simeon said...

I agree that distribution is the key in the digital age. Who has the rights, but also who has the audience.
Calabash Music is based on a "fair trade" business model. All of our content is licensed from independent artists or independent record labels on a non-exclusive basis. We pay %50 of every sale directly to the license holder (artist or label depending). When we provide our services to other businesses and non-profits who want to have a digital music store (Afro-pop World Wide, MondoMix, and recently National Geographic) we maintain the same payout to the artists no matter where the sale occurs.
Currently we are working to educate and enable artists (content producers as we are all labeled these days!) to use digital technology to promote themselves. Personally I see this combination working to create economic gain - active self promotion hooked into a fair distribution system (or systems) that has an established audience.

www.calabashmusic.com

1:31 PM  

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