Musicians Oppose Changes in Copyright Laws to Make Sampling Easier

Aerosmith lead singer Steve Tyler has spoken out against a proposed change in US copyright law that would require musicians to let others create derivative works of their songs.

These derivative works would include samples, mash-ups, and remixes.

Unauthorized sampling is common in the music industry.  Record Label TufAmerica Inc. recently filed a copyright infringement lawsuit claiming that FrankOcean’s “Super Rich Kids” included an unauthorized sample of Mary J. Blige’s 1992 song “Real Love.”

TufAmerica does not own the Blige song, but it does own a 1973 song “Impeach the President” that Blige samples in her song.

Tyler’s comments, along with those of his attorney, were submitted in response to a request in a US Department of Commerce green paper on copyright policy.

One of the changes suggested was the creation of a compulsory license that would allow musicians to remix the works of others by paying a flat fee.  Cover versions of songs are now handled in this manner.

Tyler said that such a compulsory license would force artists to allow their music (or other works) to be associated with messages and causes that the artist objects to.  He said the compulsory license might allow someone to use a sample of music by Melissa Etheridge (a lesbian) in a song containing homophobic slurs, or could allow someone to use a song by gun-ownership-advocate Ted Nugent in a work promoting gun control.

Other musicians opposing the change include Deadmau5, Don Henley, Sting, and Joe Walsh.

The green paper resulted from hearings in May in the House Judiciary Committee’s intellectual property subcommittee to consider the modernization of US copyright law in the wake of technological advances in computers and digital media.

The last extensive revisions of US copyright law were in 1976, before the advent of the Internet and the PC.  Subsequent amendments have been piecemeal, including the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, which focused on digital rights management, anti-circumvention, and “safe havens” for Internet service providers.

Stay up-to-date on the latest Intellectual Property Law news from Sheldon Mak & Anderson.

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