“Professional musicians – whether they’re performers, composers, or both – rely on strong copyright protections for their careers.” – David Newhoff
Date: February 23, 2017
Venue: WeWork Wall Street (NY)
Text by Dawoud Kringle
The 7th MFM workshop started as a detailed talk, and became a lively discussion about the vital topic of copyrights in the 21st century.
MFM founder Sohrab Saadat Ladjavardi opened the meeting with a description of MFM’s mission statement. This was followed by a brief description of MFM’s workshops, and the workshop of February 23rd, 2017 with David Newhoff.
David Newhoff is a writer and copyright advocate, who has worked as a consultant to Copyright Alliance, Creative Future, and the Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property. His blog, The Illusion of More: Dissecting the Digital Utopia is followed by artists, legal professionals, institutional and independent rights holders, and policymakers.
As is the tradition of MFM workshops, a brief musical performance preceded the talk. The author played a solo guitar piece; and improvisation on a medley of two of his compositions.
Newhoff began with a flashback to the SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) controversy of 2011. It proved to be a failure. He led this into the concept of “Copyright Activism.” Newhoff devoted time to explain the basics of copyrights.
One issue that was addressed was the modernization of the copyright office. Being a government agency, it does not run efficiently (its operations are plagued by slow turnarounds, antiquated computer systems, etc.). The large data companies (most notably Google, Amazon, Pandora, etc.) all operate very efficiently. Unfortunately, these Silicon Valley corporations have been circumventing their responsibility to copyright holders.
The participants were far from passive. The entire workshop became a lively round of discussion on the dynamics of 21st century copyright law, the relation and interaction between copyrights and publishing, the legal gray areas of copyrights, and the unprecedented changes in not only the enforcement and application of copyright laws, but their actual definition.
As the workshop drew to a close, the discussion veered toward the state of change within the music business, with no clearly defined processes. The entire dynamic and paradigm of the music business has rendered the old copyright laws obsolete. The activist efforts to modify the laws to the advantage of musicians / artists are meeting resistance from Silicon Valley (such as Google). Different groups are fighting over how to redefine the rules, and very few ideas are in the works that promise an asset to all and a liability to none. Newhoff and his associates are working toward this goal.
The aforementioned MFM tradition of a musical performance also happens at the end of the workshops. Violinist Naomi Florin offered a beautiful rendition of two short pieces by Bela Bartok.
MFM’s choices for the subjects of workshops have been consistently useful to musicians. This service is proving valuable to the musical community, and has earned the support MFM is receiving and will doubtless continue to receive.
Below are a list of resources for musicians who wish to explore this topic in detail.
www.copyhype.com (Terry Hart)
www.illusionofmore.com (David Newhoff)
www.musictechpolicy.com (Chris Castle)
www.thetrichordist.com (David Lowery)
www.zoekeating.com (Zoe Keating)
www.copyright.nova.edu (Stephen Carlisle)