[A2k] BBC Radio 4: Copyright or Wrong

Teresa Hackett teresa.hackett at eifl.net
Fri Jan 12 04:33:43 PST 2018

Listen here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08md9xf

Leading copyright lawyer and author Richard Taylor asks whether copyright
is an analogue law in the digital age.

Everywhere we look, there are examples of copyright - from the music
playing in stores to the images on billboards and the trainers we wear. And
that is just in the real world. On the internet, users downloading music or
posting images can infringe copyright on a daily basis without ever being

Richard Taylor examines the problems with copyright law, revealing the
cracks in the current system which can stifle artistic creation, manipulate
our view of history and even put hurdles in the way of scientific
development. He acknowledges the importance of copyright in recognising and
rewarding authorship but questions at what point it becomes more about
financial greed and control, with increasing ownership in the hands of big
music labels, film companies and publishers.

US judge Alex Kozinski says, "Overprotecting intellectual property is as
harmful as under protecting it. Nothing since we tamed fire is genuinely
new, culture like technology, grows by accretion, each new creator building
on the works of those who came before."

Rows over copyright are not new. In 1842, Charles Dickens, at the height of
his fame, embarked on a lengthy tour of America, not to promote his books
but to stop US publishers ripping him off. Dickens failed - and took his
revenge in the American passages in Martin Chuzzlewit.

Dickens would be delighted at the growing enforcement of copyright law. In
the early 1970s, Terry Gilliam borrowed hundreds of images and paintings
for his famous Monty Python animations, yet in 1995 he discovered times had
changed when making the film 12 Monkeys. A court stopped distribution of
the film, concluding that Gilliam had based a set design on a copyrighted
drawing. Gilliam also had to pay for a background appearance of Andy
Warhol's Xerox of Da Vinci's Last Supper.

In today's digital age, ownership is more complicated and subject to
different legislation in different countries. In France for example, a
photograph of the Eiffel Tower lit up at night could infringe the copyright
of the light show creators, even though a photo taken during the day is
permissible because the architect has long since died.

More obvious are copyright infringements in music, art and written works. A
recent US case sent shock waves through the music industry when a jury
concluded parts of Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke were copied from Marvin
Gaye's 1977 hit Got to Give It Up and ordered $7.4m be paid to Gaye's
children. Forensic musicologist Peter Oxendale worked on the case and is on
record condemning the verdict as appalling. The uncertainty around music
copyright judgements has led to a mushrooming of his case load. He now gets
hundreds of enquiries from music labels and singer song writers wanting him
to check for possible copyright infringement before tracks are released.

The film industry also spends millions to pick their way through the
copyright minefield. In the recent film Selma, however, the King Estate
refused permission to use the speeches of Martin Luther King. The film's
director was therefore forced to re-write his words.

In the programme, Richard interviews copyright experts, hunts down
representative cases and talks to campaigners like Julia Reda MEP who calls
for better copyright laws and clarity.


Best wishes

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