This is an update of a piece first published in 2012 on the issue of music copyright, my reason for this is because in the past I’ve had a run in with a couple of Music Publishing Houses (one in France and one in Germany) and I thought I would share the tail with you.
The copyright of music is a massive problem for record companies and anyone trying to make a living out of their music. There are two schools of thought, one that copyright doesn’t matter and we should be able to copy, download, resample, rewrite and do whatever we like with a piece of music because once it’s out in the public domain than its for everyone to use.
The other camp feel that the composer and artist should get a royalty for every time a piece of music is played or recorded or sampled, a few years ago the most sampled record was drum patterns from James Browns back catalogue and in fact ‘Funky Drummer’ is still No 2 according to Who Sampled.com all of this royalty copyright stuff keeps music publishing lawyers ready to sue at the drop of a hat.
This is not a new problem, Mozart apparently had issues with people stealing his ideas, Albinoni’s famous ‘Adagio in G minor’ wasn’t written by him it was written by his biographer ‘Remo Giazotto’ who based the work on a manuscript fragment from Albinoni, imagine how his decedents feel at missing out on all those royalty cheques.
Even the guy who recorded Buddy Holly, Norman Petty added his name to the writing credits of several of Holly’s songs including the hit ‘Peggy Sue’, Petty of course didn’t write these songs he recorded and produced them but part of the deal was adding his name to the writing credits so another poor musician/composer gets ripped off.
Anyway my story starts on the train journey back from Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2012, it was my birthday while at the Festival and my birthday present was a small synthesiser from Korg called a Kaossilator 2 which allows me to create music on the fly, I tend to use it as a composers notepad and this is exactly what I did on the train back from Edinburgh. I spend about 30 minutes composing the basics of an electronic piece that I called ‘Seat Number 7’ this was my seat number on the train of course. The composition was edited back at home; a little piano was added and then finally mixed and mastered by myself.
I decided to put the piece on my You Tube Channel, so I created a little video to go with the finished track and duly uploaded the finished masterpiece (I’m being ironic) to You Tube thinking no more about it, apart from hoping people might listen and like it.
Within seconds of the video going live on You Tube I was send the following email:
Dear Human Being ,
Your video "Seat Number 7", may have content that is owned or licensed by Kontor New Media, but it’s still available on YouTube! In some cases, ads may appear next to it.This claim is not penalising your account status. Visit your Copyright Notice page for more details on the policy applied to your video. Yours sincerely, - The YouTube Team
And within a few more seconds another e-mail saying the same message from You Tube but this time the company was called ‘Believe’, I was flabbergasted as all of the content was created by sounds generated in the Korg Kaossilator
which didn’t need any copyright clearance.
I duly wrote back to both companies the same day (through You Tube’s web e-mail system) and explained where, when and how Seat Number 7’ was composed saying that I even had a witness as sitting in seat No 8 next to me on the train was my wife who watched me compose the piece, she didn’t have to listen as I was wearing headphones.
And then I waited…..
Hours turned into days, days turned into weeks and just as I was about to start a ‘Free the Seat Number 7 one’ campaign and rally round everyone I know in East Yorkshire to march down Pocklington Market Street on a Saturday afternoon stopping on route for tea and biscuits, I finally got the following e-mail ( it only took them 36 days to have a listen to my piece).
Dear Human Being,
Believe has reviewed your dispute and released its copyright claim on your video, "seat Number 7". For more information, please visit your Copyright Notice page. Yours sincerely,- The YouTube Team.
And then the following day another similar message regarding Kontor
New Media’s claim against me.
Hurray I felt like a free man and so relieved to know that the copyright police were not going to come knocking at my door demanding access to the Pocklington Music computer hard-drives amongst other things.
I am of course joking, I found the whole thing mildly annoying but there is a bigger issue here as I’ve said before musicians and composers should be paid for the work they do (see my YorkMix piece from May 2012) and there was a lot of fuss over musicians not getting paid at the Olympics and Paralympics which the musicians union are finally doing something about because they are starting an awareness campaign.
As for which copyright camp I fall into, I fall in somewhere in the middle, if you’re a guy working in your bedroom wanting to remix a composition I’ve created or add it to your own work I’m happy for that to happen and I won’t want a fee (unless your loaded) I would still want to be asked (it is my right to refuse of course) and I’d want you to make sure I’m credited and the correct PPL, ISRC & PRS codes are registered (these are codes that identify a song/composition on a CD or download so writers can receive royalties).
On the other hand if you’re a film company or large publisher wanting to use my piece in the next blockbuster ( I wish) then I would like paying please.
In fact I’ve turned down two film contracts in the last few of years, because the contracts offered required me to give up my copyright on the songs that were going to use in each film. This means that if I added these songs to my own album and those were the songs the company wanted then I would be paying a percentage to the film company every time I sell an album, although they don’t have anything to do with the album – that doesn’t seem right somehow does it?.
The publishing deal that I finally signed with MusicIQ a music publisher in New York mean that I get to keep all copyright, I can licence or do whatever I want with my songs and compositions I’ve written and if MuseIQ want to place one of my songs in the next episode of ‘Game of Thrones’ or the latest CSI spin-off CSI Pocklington maybe!) then we’ll split the fee and the royalties (although I’ll
get full composers royalties) and both will have better bank balances for it and as for Kontor New Media and Believe they are both off my Christmas card list!!
Although just as I was about to post this blog, I received another e-mail from You Tube stating that my ‘Seat Number 7’ composition had a new copyright claim from a company called Cloud 9 Music who have claimed that 'Seat No 7' is in copyright infringement with a song by the band Moke and a song called Till Death do us Part - I can't contest this decision or see the similarity but you decided!!!
(All copyright clearance provided)©2012/2015☺
Ian J Cole
Ian is a Composer, Musician, Producer and Sound Designer and MD of Pocklington Music who has been working in the music industry since he signed his first independent recording contact in 1981. Over the years Ian has been commissioned to write music for Education, TV, Film, Software and the Internet.