Hello, Copyright Police? I'd like to report a crime against good judgment.

Okay, I’m reading through the news Sunday when I spot this article from the BBC

“Rock band Heart have called in lawyers after US vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin used their track Barracuda at a Republican Party rally.“ 

Yay!  This is so messed up I don’t know where to begin.  How about I start with copyright law itself.  The continual re-extension of copyright terms is utterly ridiculous and deserves all the ridicule we can heap upon it.  In Canada, it is generally 50 years after the artist’s death.  Fifty years!  Why not ten?  Why not one hundred?  Is this really for the author?  How about the author’s estate?  What about when the rights have been signed away to a book company or record company or movie company or whatever? 

Given our ability to archive material, why not forever?  I mean, it’s not like it was 400 years ago and we’ve long since lost track of who wrote William Shakespeare’s plays!  We have the ability to keep track of these little details now and not forget stuff so quickly.  Really, it’s not like we’ll ever going to know who wrote Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” anymore. 

But do Shakespeare and Chaucer’s decendents deserve a cut off every book sold anymore?  It seems laughable, but a company’s ability to continue to extend copyright into the future is perverse.  Six hundred years down the road, will Mickey Mouse be in the public domain or will the image still be locked up by the Disney Corporation because there’s value left to be exploited from Walt’s most famous idea? 

And what about what I just said up there?  Is that even a valid comment for me to make?  I don’t own the Mickey Mouse name.  Can I even legally talk about the character safely on a blog without invoking lawyerly wrath of those wealthier than I?  Must I mask my comments by talking about a fictional “Raymond Rat” and the large putatively family oriented Example Corporation? 

From the article, it seems the Republicans are claiming use of the song was covered under a blanket license paid for by the venue.  May I point out that the song was obviously broadcast outside of the venue?  In my opinion, that ought to make the whole license issue very cloudy indeed.  Otherwise I could simply be playing music in my bedroom for my own personal enjoyment.  The microphone and the broadcasting equipment pumping it through my neighbourhood would be merely incidental reporting on the news of my day, right?


Listen, you damned moronic politicians:  The mess you’ve created is way too convoluted in the first place and it sure as hell isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do.  And let’s start with the jackasses in the USA:  Quit trying to push your mess on the rest of the world.  It’s your laws, in your convention centre, under your rules, and YOU messed it up.  If you can’t keep it straight, and you’re supposed to be professionals at this, don’t expect amateurs to be held to the highest bar either.  Go to hell, and take your lobby groups with you.

Actually, let me get on with those useless lobby groups while I’m loathing them.  There’s the paid lobbiests who should be outlawed, taken behind parliament or congress or the senate or wherever they think they can bend opinions on behalf of anyone else and be spanked soundly until their bottoms are raw and pussy and they cry for their seats to be spared.  (I’m Canadian, that’s just about as harsh a punishment as I can defend.)  Then there’s the Industry groups - the RIAA, MPAA, CRIA - that are sock puppets for the cartel of companies behind them that represent few, that are responsive to fewer, and act as though they have all the rights in the world to go on disrupting citizens by taking advantage of the dismal and vague laws the lobbiests have put into place.  Suing file sharers by hook or by crook, whether they have to break the law to do it or not?  Nice, professional leeches.

And further more, let me make one small jump to the record companies themselves who are less business men and more thugs with finite fiscal sense.  May the lot of you be on the corner hocking plastic disks real soon now - I trust the precious few worth anything will eat and the rest will drift off to hopefully something manually intensive to purge the ideas of sycophancy from your heads.

Think about it:  These companies exist for one reason - TO SELL MUSIC.  So what do they do?  Lock their vaults to protect their “property” and refuse to sell you the very thing you’re trying to get your hands on.  And no one else is allowed to sell it because we can’t pry their damned fingers off the copyright.  Go ahead, try to get something released 20 years ago on an obscure record label.  It’s hell to find it at all, or if you can find it you’re paying extortionate rates.  Don’t tell me there’s no demand, I want it and I cannot buy it?  Up yours.

Fix copyright.  The author deserves to reap the reward.  If the author wants to grant it to a company, fine.  Ownership of the original work must stay with the artist.  I’ll even accept assigning copyright to the estate for a short period of time.  But exclusivity for 50 years?  No, that’s crazy.  How about something like a non-exclusive copyright where others can republish works for a fee?  Go talk to Michael Geist a while until you put some sensible back into the law.

Define rules of fair dealing clearly and as unambiguously as possible.  The right to a backup needs to be enshrined.  It’s not hard to draw a line between one backup and 500 given to friends.  But my backup for my personal use kept offsite is not and should not be considered unreasonable.

Shakespeare and Chaucer’s works didn’t die because they were republished and loved.  They got put out there.  Today someone can sit on a master tape and claim there’s not enough demand.  Open the vaults and get those works into public so they don’t get lost and we can find value anew.

And in case you were afriad I was going to run out of rants:  Ann and Nancy Wilson don’t get a free pass in this either.

“The Republican campaign did not ask for permission, nor would they have been granted permission,” they said.

Permission to use the song?  Are you frackkin’ kidding me?

Did you get paid for the song?  (No, sadly that’s a valid question in context here - there’s no guarantee they actually DID get paid under the stupid licensing schemes of today.)  If they were paid, you can not dictate how the song is going to be used.  If you sell me a toaster and I squish it under a steam roller, it was MY toaster to do with as I wanted.  If you sell me a DVD of a movie, and I choose to shred it and store it in a sweaty gym sock, it is MY movie to do with as I wanted.  If you sell me the right to use a song and I choose to play it at an event you don’t agree with, you can’t go back after the fact and say I don’t have permission.  If the company or organization or professional leeches you signed up with to represent you said it was okay, take it up with them for misrepresenting you.

Sometimes you have to throw your works out there and just hope they get appreciated for what they are.  It’s a good song, I’m sure you’ve done well by it.  I can’t say I’m fond of it, but a lot of people do like it.  Get it out there, play it loud and often and be sure the message of the barra-barra-barra-barracuda doesn’t get forgotten.

And finally, for “Sarah Barracuda”.  My ghod, it was a bad highschool nickname.  Really, horribly bad.  Stop drawing attention to it, it’s lame.  Really lame.   See if Ann and Nancy will loan you a lawyer or two, and maybe you can start suing whoever dubbed you with that crap in the first place.

Seriously, I haven’t heard of anything that bad since Boomer Adair.