For the most part, copyright laws do a decent job of protecting artists. In his book All You Need to Know About the Music Business, Donald Passman said people wouldn’t create anything if everyone had the rights to it, and the creator wasn't compensated (Passman, 2019). We need copyright laws to protect artists. They should have the rights to their art (music). Anyone who wants to benefit from that art by reproducing, distributing copies, make a derivative work, display the work, or use it through digital transmission needs the copyright holder's permission (King, 2020).
However, there are some instances where copyright goes too far. I think the only ridiculous exclusive right is performing the work publicly (King, 2020). As a musician, I have never experienced this being an issue. I understand that it is supposed to protect the artist if they wish for another artist to reframe from playing their music live. Yet, I've never heard of an artist getting upset with another artist for covering their song live without permission. I've been in many bands over the years, and I've never thought about reaching out to another group to get agreement to cover their music. But I do see where it's useful. Since you can't play a song live or as a recording without permission, an artist can stop a political entity from using a song if they don't support their views.
I feel that arts and science can continue to progress with copyright laws. As technology advances, so should the laws that protect artists. There is a gray area between what is considered an original piece of work and what is plagiarized. A friend used to say that a musician's unique style is simply a combination of lifelong influences. Though I agree with his sentiment about influences, my argument is that to be genuinely creative; we need to take those influences and mold them into something more exclusive. Every musical artist has influences, bits, and pieces from other works that they've come across. If the artist doesn't blatantly copy a previous piece without the original artist's permission, it's considered a truly unique work.
For example, if you were to take the Mona Lisa painting (not the original of course), cut it up into a thousand pieces, and then reconstruct a new picture from all those tiny pieces, it becomes an original piece. However, if you rebuilt the piece but left identifiable parts like the original paintings head, that would be copyright infringement.
In creativity, we walk a fine line between mimicking our influences and offering something unique. If it is too exclusive, then it becomes too foreign, and people can't relate to work. However, a blatant copy of someone else's work is just shameful.
Have copyrights benefited corporations over consumers and creators? I believe copyrights benefit everyone equally. These rights give creators incentives to create without someone else profiting from their work. Copyrights benefit consumers by allowing creators to stay innovative and original with their work, offering new material to consume. Corporations benefit from copyrights by protecting their work and branding assets such as movies, logos, etc. However, I think corporations like Disney are going a bit too far at lobbying for an extension on copyright terms. The company has some old movies, and by extending the length of those terms, they can continue profiting from those movies (Hampel, 2012). I realize this may contradict what I just wrote, but perhaps corporations like Disney benefit more from copyrights.
Hampel, B. (2012, November 30). Copyright laws designed to protect corporations, not creative work. Retrieved July 01, 2020, from https://www.kstatecollegian.com/2012/11/30/copyright-laws-designed-to-protect-corporations-not-creative-work/
King, M. (2020). Lesson 2, Copyright. Berklee College of Music.
Passman, D. S. (2019). Attorneys. In All you need to know about the music business. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Brian Lundgren is a marketing professional, musician, and family man living in the Southeast region of Massachusetts.