Copyright problems

Edit: now on 23 July – the below has become redundant in view of new information that has come to light … ah well.

Over the last couple of years I’ve released some music as digital downloads through international netlabels. The music has been covered by a Creative Commons licence – which means that I give up certain rights (ie. royalties) to make the music available. The licence is an Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0

Sounds simple, huh? I sign the licence and people can download for free, nobody pays, nobody receives payment. Except, uh-oh, I joined APRA, which protects copyright for New Zealand artists (eg. if a copyrighted track gets played on the radio, APRA ensures that any fees get to the artist). That seems like a good idea in case I release some copyrighted (as in not Creative Commons) music. Except that some of the music was released on a netlabel in a country where APRA’s equivalent asks for licence fees for members. Meaning that the label owner may have to pay them, who I presume would then pay APRA who would then pay me. Except that I’ve relinquished my rights to payment quite clearly. Apparently that doesn’t wash. The label owner can’t pay (of course not, s/he does this as a hobby, for the fun of it, not for money) so will have to take my music off the label. So here’s the craziness:

Because I belong to APRA, which protects the abuse of my music, my music is going to be unavailable.

Believe me, I think APRA do great work (which is why I joined). It’s too easy for artists’ work to be used for the benefit of others (eg. ambience in a cafe) without any reward for the artist. Many people depend on this kind of remuneration for their livelihood and APRA’s work, along with other agencies, is great in protecting that. But the irony here is that my work will become entirely unavailable because of APRA’s protection as it applies internationally.

While the netlabel scene is small time when related to the music industry as a whole, I feel sad that this little bit of New Zealand culture on the international stage is going to be hobbled by what is really a technicality.

It looks as if I will have to resign my APRA membership in order to make my music available in the future. Even then, it also seems that because of being an APRA member at the time the music was released it’s now going to be permanently unavailable through the netlabel.

mood: sad, disconsalate

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