Paul McCartney’s Greed

McCartney cries ‘Help!’ on Beatles�song copyrights – Dec. 7, 2006 Paul McCartney is putting a full court press on the British PR machine to try and sway public opinion to extend copyright in Great Britain beyond 50 years. At risk for him are the earliest of Beatles songs which could fall into the public domain if not extended by 2012 – 2013.

As if Paul McCartney has not made enough money in his lifetime.

The purpose of copyright is to encourage people to create art because they might be protected with a limited period of time with which to exclusively profit from that art. 50 years is enough. In fact it should be a lot shorter.

These days especially, art is becoming more and more an act of recycling and reinterpreting previous art. In the remix culture brand new fantastic things are created by a new breed of artist that is all of a sudden making brand new art out of things. And these people are being sued by the likes of Paul McCartney and the big music machine.

The Beastles have done a number of fantastic Beastie Boy / Beatles mashups. They have created something new and fresh and interesting and alive. They have created art. And yet while Paul McCartney and the Beastie Boys can profit off of their art, the Beastles cannot profit beyond their art except to the extent that maybe it builds some noteriety for them and results in other things.

But the question is, is it better to put more pounds in Paul McCartney’s already overflowing coffers, or is it better to open up the music to all of us after 50 years and to give new and interesting and emerging artists the ability to take that old sound and turn it into something new for us.

An artist does not need to be protected beyond 50 years at the cost of what is in the overall interest for new artists and all of us who might enjoy new versions of that content everywhere.

Be Sociable, Share!
Loading Facebook Comments ...

No Comments

  1. Dave! says:

    There is another aspect, beyond greed: control. Once those Beatles songs enter the public domain, they can be used for anything. *Anything*. I could soundtrack a porn with them. Use them in commercials. Etc.

    Yes, the purpose of the copyright is to protect the artist’s right to profit, but it’s also to protect the artist’s right to preserve the integrity of their work. That is perhaps, one reason to say “the life of the artist” is a good approach–since presumably, once they are dead, they shouldn’t be bothered…

    At any rate, saying it’s *all* greed is not accurate.

  2. Andy Frazer says:

    “The Beastles”…

    I love it!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Sparrow gives an analysis of the situation. Maybe fame was the culprit:

  4. Anonymous says:

    Right. Because it’s about the sanctity of the artistry:

    Financial Post
    But what will Stella do? McCartney to trademark his name for products: Marketing
    National Post
    155 words
    14 October 2006
    National Post
    All but Toronto
    (c) 2006 National Post . All Rights Reserved.
    Former Beatle Paul McCartney sought yesterday to cash in on his surname by registering it as a trademark for use on everything from waistcoats to vegetarian food. In addition to vegetarian items, he is also seeking permission for the name on meat, fish, poultry and game. The application has been made by Sir Paul’s company, MPL Communications Ltd., and if successful will give it the exclusive right to use of the name McCartney on clothing, footwear, headgear and other goods. Sir Paul set up MPL to handle his recordings after the breakup of the Beatles. Objecters now have three months to lodge objections with the Trademarks Registry. Once a trademark has been granted, its owners can take action to prevent others using identical, or even similar, names and logos. Reuters

    N-word, please!

  5. Andre says:

    Anyone know where you can still download DJ BC’s Beastles albums?

  6. Thomas Hawk says:

    Andre, the fact that you can’t get the Beastles any more is exactly the problem of copyright. Great art is squashed. Fortunately I was able to download all the tracks and get to play them whenever I want before they got taken down.

    Squashing great art like the Beastles is why we should be so careful about giving fat artists even more money.

    Within 50 years, heck within 10 years, the majority of money to be made on a hit song will have been made. And if a hit song actually has meaningful value years later, still afer 50 years, it is likely that the artist has profited immensely.

    Paul McCartney’s made his fortune. He has more money than he can spend in the highest standard of living for the rest of his life. Time to make room for other new artists creating new and exciting art.

  7. mike says:

    Lennon/McCartney created these classics and they belong to them. If an act like the Beastles requires other peoples creations to make their way, then I doubt they have much to offer. If that were the case, I’d paint a moustache on the Mona Lisa and call it mine.

  8. Anonymous says:

    In photography, over here it’s (IIRC) something like 50 years after the death of the photographer. That sounds fair, after all why should someone else profit from work produced by me or anyone else.

    That would seem to me to be a fair answer for music.

  9. Jim Stogdill says:

    As an artist myself I would be immensly dismayed to see my work used to sell someone’s crap or whatever. And it is about control, you want to control your own work, how it is presented, and where.

    However, this argument reminds me of this article from the New Yorker about how James Joyce’s grandson has gone so far as to sue academics who dare discuss his grandfather’s work in a way that he finds unpleasant.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Mike… the problem with your Mona Lisa comment is that, painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa is not against copyright. People have done it and people can continue doing it. There is no restriction on this and I don’t see it hurting the art industry. People want the artist’s work, not a look alike. If they do want a look alike or derivative, then there is obviously something valuable about it and hence has social value (something you so quickly dismiss).

    Those who argue that artistic integrity is an important reason to allow copyright is seriously damaged when you consider the absolute exact same situation when looking at written works. One is fair to quote another’s work (as long as you attribute your original work) at any time and for any reason, even if you disagree with it. While I see the concern in being able to use the Beatles music whenever and wherever you wish, the argument by its very nature makes a value judgment. Value judgments follow a slippery slope because not everyone agrees with the value one has placed on it. One might say that a copyright owner should have the right to make the final value judgment to protect from things that most consider outrageous such as porn or obscenity. However, lets take this to the exact opposite extreme. What if Paul McCartney pulled all Beatle’s music he owned from ever being played, sold or viewed again. Should that be allowed? I hope your answer is no in this case. What value would such power add to our society? Our culture has had much value created from the Beatles, both in art and zeitgeist. Disallowing others in future generations from ever being able to fully understand this would affect the state of our culture. What would be the purpose of art?

    In essence the the US has adopted law that has created a legitimacy to anyone who owns non-physical creations (intellectual only), a person, their estate or a company that owns copyright, to censor and/or make profits in whatever way they wish FOREVER. What value to society is an idea if a person who is no longer living or who has made infinite amounts of money while living, is still charging the society that consumes such a FOREVER? It stifles creativity.

    In the hope to preserve free culture, utilize free market capitalism to use your purse to make value judgments. Don’t allow individuals or companies to be able to fully control an idea that is shared by a society and influences their future culture and that society’s creativity!

  11. William Beem says:

    I can’t agree with you. If I create something, why must I relinquish my rights to it after ANY period of time? Why shouldn’t the rights belong to my family or estate after I pass away? If I choose to submit the rights to public domain, then at least I have some say.