It sounds as if Entertainment lawyers will be staying busy sorting out developments in the music industry affecting everything from copyrights and classical music to digital rights and the catalog of a longtime player in pop.
Catching up on some issues in the field:
It may look like an idiosyncratic case over classical music. But poke around a little in Golan v. Holder and there’s a legal hornet’s nest abuzz over copyright, public domain and the 1994 congressional action that shoved vast amounts of intellectual material back into protected status for decades, infuriating not just devotees of long-hair music but also folks from academia to the Silicon Valley. The Chronicle of Higher Education puts a fine face on the litigation, describing the long legal battle by Lawrence Golan, a Denver University conductor, to buy for campus performances works by his beloved Russian composers such as Sergei Prokofiev, Dmitri Shostokovitch and Igor Stravinsky. As the Chron and NPR point out for their lay audiences, those works and many others, including art by Pablo Picasso and books by HG Wells and movies by Alfred Hitchcock, were re-copyrighted by Congress, and, thus, have become un-affordable or unavailable, particularly in the academic world where they might be heavily trafficked and studied, especially if they were freely available in public domain. Golan’s case advances to the U.S. Supreme Court in the fall term with a formidable corps of those filing amicus briefs and renewed commentary not only from the Ivy Towers but also from Silicon Valley and open source and online advocates
NPR’s Laura Sydell has given some wider, fresh attention to the recent announcement by EMI music publishing that it is dumping the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers for tracking digital rights of works in its catalog. The company, which is in play, is reported to control tens of thousands of tunes by top artists and its self-described self-licensing experiment has led to considerable speculation as to its effects on a music industry already in technological tumult. ASCAP reacted blithely earlier in a statement, saying EMI’s action will have “minimal impact.” But others have weighed in, wondering if the publisher’s move will create confusion and excessive complexity for those who wish legally to play and perform music in the EMI catalog such as broadcasters. Or will it benefit musicians themselves? Europeans looking in on an already complicated international rights scene don’t see moves away from the current, centralized U.S. system as an overall pleasant prospect.