The Copyright Debate
An update on an article we had posted earlier: Killing Culture through Copyright?
Via Spicy IP
The uncomfortable peace between the freedom of speech and expression, artistic liberties and copyright laws has again been disturbed. This time the challenge is mounted by Nina Paley, a US based cartoonist and filmmaker. The controversy centres on the music pieces used by Paley in her animated feature film titled Sita Sings the Blues.
The problem relates to the music used by Paley. The music consists of 11 Hanshaw recordings. The copyright over these sound recordings has run out and they are in the public domain. However, in lieu of the term extension granted to copyrighted works by the Sony Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, the underlying compositions, i.e., the lyrics and written music for the songs are still protected as musical works under copyright law. Thus, in order to release the movie, Paley needs to get licenses from the owners of these underlying works.
Originally, these corporations are ready to give the license for the 11 songs at issue in the movie was $220,000. This sum was simply unaffordable for Nina. Subsequently, Nina was able to get this amount reduced to a step-deal that starts at $50,000 (which she’s taking out a loan to pay) and goes up from there depending on how successful the film is.
Interestingly, in a scathing critique of the entire situation, Ben Sheffner states that Paley should have dealt with the problem of licenses prior to the making of the film. If the music was such an integral part of the film, then rights related to it should have been cleared at the earliest. Moreover, the bigger issue is whether you should be allowed to use someone else’s work in your creation even when you cannot afford it. Nina argues that she has worked on ideas already there and that charging such high prices suppresses art.
Read more of this ongoing debate here.