Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Use A Quote, Pay A Fee

Newspaper image from Bobby Owsinski's Music 3.0 blog
A discussion on copyrights or patents is a good way to raise the excitement level in a room full of entertainment or tech executives these days. There are those that feel strongly that copyrights and patents are the stick that stirs the innovation coffee, the key to a start-up getting funded and later making money. On the other hand, you have those that just as strongly feel that copyrights and patents are an old fashioned, out-of-touch method of idea protection that actually stifle innovation instead of encouraging it (the recent rash of patent troll lawsuits plays into this somewhat). The market takes care of their own and the first mover always has the advantage, they claim.

Each has a good argument, and each can point to excesses that drag down the other's position. Well here's a situation that acutely shows how copyright can be taken to the extreme.

A news article in Private Eye states that the UK's Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) will now charge artists, musicians, labels and PR specialists who use review quotes a fee of $2,000! Now for that amount you get to quote 50 reviews, but the precedent it sets is not a good one.

In fact, what ended up happening is when the NLA sent their declaration around to labels and managers, they were promptly ignored. The NLA then stepped up the campaign and began legal action which not only charged for current quotes but past ones as well, which brought the typical charge up to around $10k instead. It's yet to be seen how this will end up shaking out, so for now it stops anyone in the UK from using review quotes.

This action doesn't seem to be helping anyone. The newspaper and reviewer don't get any additional exposure, so that's bad. The artist, label, PR company can't use the quotes, so that's bad too. The newspaper may make a sliver of money that doesn't really help it's bottom line, so that doesn't seem to be worth the bad blood induced. So it seems that there's no winner here.

I understand that newspapers all over the world are suffering a downturn and are looking for new revenue streams, but this isn't the way to do it. It's debatable whether even a modest charge is fair, but this seems like a shake-down.

In the US, quoting a review can be classified as "fair use" and therefore not subject to such a charge, but you can bet that there are a number of company and association attorneys watching this closely.

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1 comment:

Jef Knight said...

Chris Hedges in his essays details quite sucinctly why this is happening.

The short version is that as corporate capitolism implodes it's going to grab every last cent from the consumer that it can. This is a good example of that.
Now, it might only be greedy bastards who were just drooling for the day they could impliment their evil plan.

But probably not.

Newspapers are dying and even internet new sources are about to die as they paywall their sites.
I expect to see this and a long list of other "fees" and "associated costs" rise dramatically in the near future.
Here in Canada the new copyright law has turned downloading into a fine around the same cost as a DUI.

Another version of this is the new Microsoft pattent that allows your TV to watch you and determine how many people are viewing a rented movie and charge a per head fee if you go over the number of viewers you are alotted. If you play said movie at your family renunion it might constitute a "public performance" for which you will be fined or charged, as that's a breach of private use.

Already videog's are having their work taken down on youtube for having "copyrighted" products or video show up in the background of their vids. It's like reverse product placement. Or something.

Add to this pay-for-more-bandwidth caps, amazon nuking previously purchased books off of peoples' kindles, a rise in bank fees, downloading of medical fees onto the patient (Canada), cost saving measures like eliminating plastic bags at stores and cost downloading measures like requiring customers to bag their own goods, pump their own gas, assemble their own poorly build Swedish furniture, all at no cost savings to the customer.

It's the same "kids these days don't respect their elders" argement of yore writ large as youthful and vigorous new ideas are at odds with the entrenched hegemonies and treachery from days of yonder.



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