Can you spell irony?

I just caught up on some of my blog reading and came across an article that just makes me wonder.. do people understand irony any more?

Via BoingBoing, a link here to a group of former students are apparently suing Pink Floyd and/or the current copyright holders for unpaid royalties for singing their part of “Another Brick In The Wall”. You may recall the part, it being such an iconic song, from 25 years ago, no less.

I’m not up on all the details of the case, though I hope to be soon, but the song was recorded in 1979. I believe it was released the same year, but I’ll have to check my facts. The former students are apparently claiming royalties under the .uk Copyright Act 1997. Again, I’ll have to check my facts, but on the face of it, this seems to be a case of a law passed 18 years after the song was released is causing the copyright holder to pay royalties (only on the portion played after 1997, mind you) to a group who were not under contract at the time.

The more I look at this, the more I can see it being a really messy mish-mash of what passes for copyright law at the moment. The practical reality is that: I record a song 25 years ago in which people are volunteered into recording. The students may not have had correct consents organised, yet I am not to know this. 25 years later, 7 years after some legislation is passed, I get hit for a bill for unpaid royalties due to no unfair dealings on my part.

Indeed, quoting Mr. Peter Thorpe, from the article: “We were just taken to the studios and it was great fun. I didn’t realise royalties were owed and I’m very glad to be in a position to claim them.” This just smacks of opportunism.

In my not so humble opinion, this is just one of many reasons why Intellectual Property law needs to be streamlines, clarified and brought up to date with modern technology, expectations and societal norms. The current laws are hideously out of date and this kind of retroactive mess should be avoided in the future.

Remember folks, every time you take a picture, send an email, write a letter or draw a doodle on a piece of scrap paper, you’re creating a copyrighted work, owned by you. Unless, of course, you take your photo outside your local megacorp franchise, and then it might be a bit touch and go as to who owns the photo you took. Do you really want to be legally required to pay a royalty to McCrustyTaco every time you show an 8mm/VHS/DVD home movie to the family at Christmas?

I’m going to go and listen to some Floyd that I’ve converted to .ogg (via a tortuous and, for the moment, completely legal process) just to savour the delicious irony that this bit of news triggers.

“We don’t need no thought control…”

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