Saturday, January 11, 2014

My Twenty Pesos on Music Copyright Rules (esp. on the Internet)

From here, I'd like to apologize for having a really stupid and long title.

I'm sure all of us are aware on how YouTube and many other sites "monopolizes" the music industry by not allowing covers and remixes/remakes to last long on their site, because of the (super-overkill, for me at least) copyright rules. Millions of accounts have been banned, and millions of dreams have been crushed. 

In the meantime, millions of worthless bakya cover artists make their way into being YouTube sensations, earning recording deals and gaining overrated sympathy. (Sorry, being a little emotional here)

Okay, first of all, I'm a musician/indie producer/artist/etc so I know why copyright exists - to protect artists from people who steal work. But I think the existing laws are too much, and focus a lot on capitalism and money-making. This is why I rarely upload covers/remakes or even make ones, especially on YouTube (though mashups are fine, surprisingly).

I was one of those people who was awakened in the age of the Internet where everything is free. F R E E. I repeat: FREE. You can literally say anything you want without having to worry that your boss might see it. You can cover/remake songs as much as you want. So, I guess for me, the tightening up of the rules really got into me, being a person who had been banned once on YT, around 2008, due to making an AMV with My Chemical Romance music (I love that band by the way and I still do, I miss them though) and a newly-released movie trailer of .hack//G.U. Trilogy. And thus, this is why I don't want to risk my account ever again, by uploading my AMVs on Vimeo instead.

For me, copyright rules, both offline and online, should be changed according to the following:

1. Style or uniqueness. They should at least consider those who try to deviate from the original content, such as those who manually create an instrumental of the cover song or remix, etc. 

Making an instrumental of something is no joke, especially if you want to be super creative with it. It can take me about hours or even days just to finish a remix or mashup. It's not easy to do cover songs as well, even if you do have the instrumental and you just sing - you have to make sure the mixing is fine, and of course, you have to take many trials if you're a really bad singer. 

And then getting a copyright notice just literally drops all of your hardwork away. What a shame.

2. Purpose. Look, I know some people try to make money from content that they don't own, but not everyone is like that. Many people just want to express their feelings through art and fandoms. As for me, I just do remixes/covers/AMVs not just because I love the song(s), but also because I want to improve my skills, and for AMVs, it's because I love the anime/game/series and want to give homage to it. I never, repeat, NEVER, sell any non-original work at all. All my Bandcamp songs are fully-original and I worked hard on producing them (I'm really bad at mixing but hey, I'm still learning). My art style is really bad but I don't really copy styles of other people. 

Copyright managers should at least be considerate on the purpose of why people want to remake their stuff, and not just keep money on the mind. To be honest, I've only earned $7 from my whole music career of nearly 7 years, because I released all my songs for free - in which that $7 is from one little Bandcamp sale (SoraNiji). I don't make music for money, but I would like at least a little 'consideration', since making music is no darn joke at all.

3. Resourcefulness. About the same as #1. I try as much as possible, when doing covers, to not use the original Karaoke, or use a MIDI, but instead, do my own instrumental (which can take hours or days to finish). And because I have a short attention span with creativity, meaning I easily lose interest of something if I don't have enough motivation, I want to get my ideas done in a jiffy, which is probably why I make music/art usually in a fast way. Also, because if I lose my motivational creativity halfway, the finished product will definitely be ugly, or I might not finish it.

But because YouTube copyrights ALL kinds of cover/remakes, original instrumental or not, I suddenly got tired of making my own instrumentals and decided to resort to the original Karaoke versions of the songs (see issue below, #6).

4. Based on previous works. Copyright managers should also take into consideration if the person(s) who remaked his or her material(s) is/are more of "creators" than "curators". Meaning to say, I think there should be different laws for people who make original content, and those who cover/curate/remake things. I'm saying that remaking is also creativity, but copying is not. The Internet exists for people to show what they want to show to the world, unlike TV where it's only one-way and only companies can say things.

There should be at least some considerations with what was remaked and how it was remaked, taking into consideration the previous circumstances. But also, there should also be a limit to how much can be remaked, but it should also depend on the remaker's purpose. I hope they hire copyright managers on companies who have the right 'heart' to see and the right 'mind' to judge, and not just picking random people to shove off the Internet.

5. Disclaimers. I think disclaimers are enough to let the original author know that he or she is being acknowledged. But in some circumstances, of course, there should be limits, such as if the remaker's hits exceeds that of the original, then of course, that is a very bad thing (especially for us creators of things). However, as I already mentioned, copyright rules today seem too tight and too sudden, and unfair, since not all people get sued equally, and some get away with everything.

Personally, disclaimers are fine if you don't intend to make money of your remake, and they are especially fine if the original author is already famous, unlike those authors who are still starting out, and can result to the remaker being higher than the author, which is obviously unfair. My suggestion: copyright rules for disclaimers should only be for not-so-famous authors, and should be loosened on famous people, since they are already blessed with fame and money.

6. Inclusion of Karaoke versions. This is what puzzles me: why do music publishers even include the Karaoke/instrumental versions whereas people will only do covers/remakes/remixes of them and eventually get copyrighted on YouTube and other sites? It doesn't make sense - looks very much like capitalism and money-making schemes to me.

I appreciate their reason of "having the fans sing-along to the songs" but with the above situation mentioned, I don't even know what to say anymore. I mean, if both original and non-original instrumentals being used in your cover songs can get a copyright notice then why bother remaking anything, right?

As if people will even check out your original works. The masses are usually light-headed and will only usually check out (famous) remakes, right? Well, that's the case for me, at the very least. But having a little audience is fine, it's just that, most of the time, appreciation is my motivation, and without motivation, I can't do my artistic stuff, sorry.


When I cover/remake/remix things, I don't intend to get discovered by media companies or anything. I just do them because I love them, and I want to re-invent them in my own way and exercise my creativity. That's why it's supposed to be called "YOUTube", not "CopyrighTube" or "MediaCompaniesTube" or something. It's supposed to represent you, your works, your re-invention of works of others with proper attribution and just purpose, and others.

Now, about remaking and innovation, here's what I think.

Invention and innovation are not really all that different - they both include originality. The only difference is in invention, you create out of nothing, while in innovation, you create out of something that already exists. But in the aesthetic approach, both of them require hardwork, perseverance and critical thinking. You can't say that a remake is a copy, because that's an entirely different thing.

And this is my twenty pesos on music (and other media) copyright rules, especially on the Internet (today).

Disclaimer: the above entry is merely an opinionated set of facts and only based from the author's experiences and insights. None of the mentioned entities are being targeted at - the entry's sole purpose is to inform and express. Thank you.


Dream Forecast said...

I agree with a lot of your points!

"But I think the existing laws are too much, and focus a lot on capitalism and money-making."

Yeah, I mean... Protection is great, but that's gonna take away a lot of free publicity for the artists as well... And it's not like a lot of the people uploading covers/remixes are trying to make money off of it. I think they should remove it if you're monetizing and you don't own the content, but otherwise... heck, as an artist, I'd be honored if you used any of my music in your work. And a lot of artists would be too. It's just... the record labels. Ahhh, business.

Kristel "Kazaki" Cuadra said...

Exactly, my friend! XD