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Copyright Legislation

Copyrights is an issue that is very much spoken of and discussed in the music industry as well as other sectors where rights of intellectual property ownership are vulnerable to infringement. According to Montgomery and Threlfall, the cornerstone of publishing is copyright that is the exclusive right given by law to a composer and a publisher to exploit a copyright work or license other to do so. They state that there are basically two differences between books and music. First, a tune can cross from one country to another with no need for translation and secondly, whereas books are sold to be read, music although can be printed, it has to be performed to come live (2007). In an article by Music Publishers Association (MPA), copyright protects creative works and enables the composer, or author or even other creators to be paid for their work. This implies that copyright is the means through which those who create and own the work for instance the music and or lyrics can control who makes use of each work and the conditions of their usage just to ensure that integrity and value of the work and input made into the production of these works are indeed respected. MPA records that copyrights generally protect the original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, sound recordings, films, broadcasts and the typographical arrangement of the published edition. The legal framework of a copyright states that in a song, every song comprises two copyright works: Firstly, the music itself (a musical work) and secondly, the lyrics/words (a literary work). It is also important to state that the economic justification of the copyright is that it provides an incentive to the authors and publishers to create and publish literary, artistic and musical works by enabling them to apply control mechanisms hence controlling exploitation and hence to recoup the outlays involved (Frith & Marshall, 2004). It is common knowledge that once some work has been published such as music, it becomes vulnerable to being copied and the person copying does not have to put up the costs of the production but only the reproduction costs. The people who copy the music for instance do not even have to take a risk of the work’s first production or recording since they only copy works that are successful in the market. This means that the person who has copied the work can supply the same at a much lower price and this implies that the producer will not be able to compete with them and cover all his/her production costs.

According to Frith and Marshall, copyright is a monopoly and it produces all the effects that the general voice of mankind attributes to any monopoly hence the making of music is dear to the producers and make them bad. Even though it may be good that the producers, composer or writers be remunerated, and the least way of remuneration is by monopoly which is an evil for the sake of good. This type of monopoly gives the author a right to set prices for the work above competitive price and thus consumers have to pay more for it.

Types of copyrights

There are a number of copyrights that must well be covered in the sphere of music industry. Regarding economic rights, at least five types of the rights are distinguished:

  1. Performance rights ensure the right to authorize and prohibit the public performance of a work such as live or recorded with a clear distinguish between the performing rights and performance rights
  2. Mechanical rights that include fixation and reproduction rights which entitle the copyright owner the right to authorize and prohibit the fixation of his/her work or live performance such as recording the work and the reproduction by making copies of the related work.
  3. Distribution rights that provides the owner of the work, rights to authorize and prohibit the making available of works fixed or tangible and performances to the public by either physical copies or by other means such as broadcasting over the air or internet.
  4. Communication rights that provides the owner of the work, rights to authorize and prohibit the making available of works fixed or tangible and performances to the public by either physical copies or by other means such as broadcasting over the air or internet.
  5. Synchronization rights that are applied when music is combined with other forms of art such as video and /or movies.

It is at this point very important to note that the above rights concern the right to authorize and prohibit the uses of music in various forms. The above rights are basically considered rights to limit people from access. Montgomery and Threlfall suggest that cross border copyright and licensing of performance were the two most important aspects of music copyright developed in the nineteenth century. It is worth noting that as far as music is concerned, the composer had a right to control public performances of his works and that the composer’s works were to be protected during his/her lifetime and for a minimum period after their death (2007).

Case: Radiohead and Prince in fight over Copyright

In the year 2008 during the month of June, a musician by name Prince covered a popular song “Creep” originally by Radiohead at a concert. This was covered and stored on the sites of You Tube but after word went round of this problem, Prince’s label quickly advised the site to take everything down related to the song and there were no videos to watch. The problem in this case is that not even Radiohead could see the fan videos of their own song.

In accordance to MPA, the criteria for copyright automatically take effect under the following conditions:

-  The work must be original in the sense that it has not been copied from any other work

-  The work is recorded in writing or otherwise or a tangible media for instance CD, tape or DVD

-  The writer is either a citizen or domicile or resident in the native county of the publishing or the country that has signed a music copyright law and therefore operation of is/her music is subject to the law.

The group Radiohead faces such scenario where their original work has been copied by another arty and being used to entertain and so gain economic value at the expense of the original publisher and to make it worse without their consent. There are a number of rights that Radiohead have guaranteeing that they can sue Prince as follows, which are subject to certain limited exceptions set out. Radiohead has the right to do any of the following or to authorize another to do so: Copy their work; Issues, lend or rent copies of their work to the public; Perform, show or play their work in public; Communicate their work to the public for instance through broadcast via television, radio or even online; and finally, adapt their work. Prince did not have the right or authority of Radiohead to do any of the above and like in the above case deciding to shut the link means that, Prince and his label were aware of rights infringement and could be liable to prosecution.

Issues in Copyright

The advent of digitization has extended the applications of the economics of innovation and research and development to methods of production of what have come to be called information goods. In the music industry, the material is compressed into digital form and can be viewed as information or the content can be supplied by electronic means and can as well become a good or service in the hands of the end user. According to Frith and Marshall, many of these goods are produced in the creative industries, and they may be thought as the package in which an author’s creation is delivered to a recipient (2004). They assert that the essential difference that digital delivery of music being made much easier for the consumer is that the consumer can provide his own copy rather than buy an original from a shop.

This means:

- Cheap and easy copying can be done with equipment that is becoming standard in most homes

- Composer, performers and sound recording makers are no longer the sole suppliers

- Quality of the music and the work is compromised but the copier might not mind as long as it has not cost them much with the availability of the coping equipment.

Consequently, creation and enforcement of the private property rights such as the copyright can help in overcoming the free-riding experience. The copyright law thus acts to allocate property in the products of talents such as the songs, literary works, scripts, sound recordings. It is, however, suggested that copyright owner has a bundle of exclusive rights, enforceable in the court under the Copyright Act that is the federal legislation. In as far as music or song is concerned, rights are as described above.

The issue in place is that these rights can be exploited by the copyright owner to generate income and exercise some degree of control over how a work is used and distributed. According to Baulch, it is important to note that these sources of income quite separate from any income the song writers such as Radiohead, might received supposing they were the performing or from the provision of their talent when commissioned to write material (2002).

A number of developments have even made the situation more complex than it was before. The historical copyright law essentially has responses to development in technology by creative communities through pressure on legislatures by creators such as Radiohead and investors winning out over consumer and other parties using pirated material. The development of broadcasting technologies has led to the development of the broadcasting right; the developing use of music in the commercial context such as factories and shops led o judicial broadening of the concept of the public performance (Baulch, 2002). There are a number of impacts that the Internet has come with that can be considered in a legal context.

Using the song and video works on the internet has impact on the copyright law. Generally, the storing of copyrighted work on a computer by downloading or caching is considered a reproduction of the work. When Radiohead does their work and stores the same on their website then reproduction has taken effect. Having songs playing on a computer in a cyber café will clearly involve a public performance of the music on the relevant site.

The practical aspect is that having copyright rights under the legislation is a very well thought after idea, but if Radiohead does not know that their work is being copied, and then those rights are not much use to them. Similarly, if Radiohead cannot identify and nail down the people such as Prince – unless it is the public bringing the infringement to their attention—making copies or sending their songs around or using the same in concerts and over the internet, then Radiohead has a very limited ability to recover compensation. Many people have today described the Internet as a gigantic copying machine. As the internet has apparently become a commercial tool and a primary means of communication between people, the leakage of the value from the copyright products such as Radiohead’s music is of increasing concern to the group with incomes or investments predicted upon very constringent control product.

Copyright and Value of Copyright

It is argued that without copyright, the Radiohead and generally, people would cease to be musically creative. Secondly, claim is made that copyright infringement is theft (Brown & Volgsten, 2006).  These claims are made to the effect that by securing music to a certain limit, copyrights are useful in promoting the progress of “useful arts” with the guarantee in maintenance and development of creativity in the authors, the cultural industries, consumers and the community as a whole.

According to Bergman, a composer or songwriters like the band –Radiohead face the “challenge of creating a song or symphony that people will want listen to, play or sing.  This process of writing music takes talent, craft, training and dedication”. The governments have laws that protect the music that songwriters and the composers create. Radiohead does make efforts to earn a living and their work has real value meaning that their work is a product of their minds or intellect just as objects are the products of somebody. Without a copyright protection it would not be possible to earn a living writing music professionally and consequently make less out of their lives. The copyright laws and the protection policies see to it that Radiohead are fairly paid when their music is used to attract or entertain listeners, in public and private places.

New Technologies

Technological change, however, also challenges the strength and undermines the usefulness of the copyright in markets. This does have effects on copyright laws. Every new technology inevitably disrupts and eventually recalibrates the relationships between the primary stakeholders such as Radiohead. Especially the digital technology has made it very easy for retrieval and transmission of the music or copyrighted works. People would say that, if you can download digital quality recordings from the internet, then why should you buy a CD besides, if the internet operates as a substitute for radio and television type services, what would happen to broadcast income? The leakages in the technological advancement are as a result of “altruistic” piracy where individual copying for personal use by people not realizing that an infringement of a law is being committed and are effectively stealing, rather than by organized commercial pirates.

In most developed regions, the copyright is breached due to the access to advanced ICTs of the common population. However, the opportunities to profit from the copyright protection of the creative expressions have increased with the introduction of ICTs and globalization as globalization has increased the size of the market. Radiohead having to implement a new digital licensing technique for all the albums produced has meant that broadcasting via the digitally interactive TV, phones, Internet and so on, has increased the economic incentives for the venture capitalists to invest in innovating products aimed for such types of the markets (Macmillan, 2007).

According to Macmillan, Radiohead has been able to capture the power of IT and thus due to increased user-producer interaction, the band are better able to invest in the creative expressions that the critical mass of consumers want (2007).

Case for Radiohead

A new digital licensing program has been launched by Radiohead to solve the copyright issues in their large label records which have for sometime been threatened by piracy and infringement. The British alternative rock act began the unique “all rights” digital licensing service for the album’s release. This, according to Digital Music, is aimed at streamlining the licensing process for the works on the 10-track set. This “one-stop-shop” solution enables potential rights users to secure licenses from a single destination and this implies that Radiohead can effectively side-step the label and traditional collection society networks (2008).

This program has allowed Radiohead to administer all digital rights for their album, including mechanical, performing, synchronization, lyrics, master recordings, images and the likeness. This gives the author, in this case Radiohead, the full rights for publishing and master rights for TV and film synch uses. In this way they can counter the moves made by Prince of infringement.

According to Macmillan, the move adopted by Radiohead is termed a fraternity that is within copyright law acknowledgement is made that laws do not merely set out the rights of Radiohead, but also calls for an analysis of the community values and responsibilities. This approach recognizes that we live in communities of individuals and organizations and governments, and that all entities have rights and duties. This is in accordance to have roles of copyright law ensuring that a wealthy, happy society and we accept the economic doctrines of the copyright (2007). This implies that in human rights, copyrights are rationalized as traditional market device employed to regulate the production, exchange and consumption of the ‘copyright’ goods.


In the future, Radiohead will have to consider the live performance of their music as the only way to make money. According to Frith, when the record companies appeared, services they were providing to the public were necessary in order for people to listen to the recorded music, making and selling the records was a major undertaking. But as this was a starting point of development or recording, making recorded music available to the masses requires a significant capital and investment which will require a legal structure that would provide stable profits and returns. Economists, assume that live music can achieve neither the economies of scale nor the reduction of the labour costs to compete with the mass entertainment media. Mass media taking full advantage of the economies of scale and technological means of reducing production costs where live performers are replace by recorded performances can keep the rising prices of its goods well below inflation.


There is a moral rationale to protect and reward Radiohead and their investors. The utilitarian classical philosophers introduced the ethical principles for identifying and enforcing the copyright law. The inventor needs protection as well as secures for the inventor an equitable amount of reward when exploiting Radiohead’s invention, knowledge and creative expressions of ideas. Justice requires that the community compensate and reward its people for their services in proportion to what they cost and how useful Radiohead has been and is to the community. Otherwise, in the real sense a number of issues are still pending which must be solved and this is just the beginning with Radiohead taking the front lead into the digital environment. However, the law is somehow uncertain and litigation or legislation is required to help bring sanity and to find a balance between copyright producers, and copyright users and how the copyright producers will handle or extract value from their talent and venture.

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