Tomorrow is Beethoven’s birthday.1 The famous composer lived when copyright doctrine was still young. It had yet to become useful as legal protection for many composers, yet — little known fact — Beethoven was still concerned about piracy.
Economist Frederic Scherer relates a couple stories about this concern in his paper The Emergence of Musical Copyright in Europe from 1709 to 1850. He notes that taking credit for the work of another composer was certainly a problem of the time, but
Much more common was the uncompensated performance of a work composed by others. Until performance rights became an accepted feature of copyright, there was little composers could do about this. Beethoven is said to have combatted such imitation by his “deadly enemies” in Vienna by making his piano sonatas so difficult that few if any could play them as well as the master.
Copying musical scores was also a problem, since composers of the time were increasingly coming to rely on these as a source of income. Composers employed a number of tactics to mitigate illicit recopying, sometimes turning to
more drastic remedies, as when Beethoven complained to the Artaria house of Vienna that a pirated version of his op. 29 Sextet contained many errors, asked the owner to turn over the 50 pirated copies for correction, and then slashed giant “X’s” across the pirated copy pages.
Happy birthday Beethoven!
SOPA Markup — The House Judiciary Committee continues the process of considering amendments to the Stop Online Piracy Act today. Yesterday’s session lasted throughout the day; twelve amendments, mostly from SOPA opponents Issa, Lofgren, and Polis, failed, and four amendments passed — including one that would require a rightsholder to pay attorney’s fees and costs to a defendant if the rightsholder “knowingly misrepresented” that a site was an Internet site dedicated to the theft of US property.
SOPA Fixes Isolate Opponents, Especially Google — “Implicit in the opponents’ opposition approach is an elitist conceit that only their companies innovate in a way that matters or benefits users, not any other American inventors or creators throughout the economy hurt by piracy, and also that no one else but them, really cares about the Internet, innovation, freedom of speech, or due process.”
Orphan Works and Fair Use in a Digital Age — Video of a panel discussion held this past week featuring Washington Post reporter Cecilia Kang, Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante, and American Society of Media Photographers General Counsel Victor Perlman.
Googlenocchio? What a Tangled Web They Weave — Indie filmmaker Ellen Seidler has been a stalwart reporter on the mechanics of commercial online piracy. Here she looks at the difference between what Google says it’s doing about online piracy, and what it’s actually doing: working hard, or hardly working?
Internet Should be Free, But Not Lawless — Op-ed by Colin Hanna. There’s a fundamental distinction between freedom and lawlessness. The former is rule by law, the latter is rule by the strongest over the weak.
How “Digital Parasites” Have Hurt Songwriters and What Songwriters Can Do To Fight Back — ASCAP’s Erik Philbrook speaks with author Rob Levine about his recent book Free Ride. They briefly discuss Creative Commons licenses, leading to the best quote of the interview: “A Creative Commons deal is like one of those old record deals. Like when you sign away your rights in exchange for a Cadillac. But with this deal, you don’t get a car.”
OPEN Act Falls Short for Artists and Creators — Sandra Aistars summarizes the key points on why Rep. Issa’s alternative rogue sites bill would do little for creators and the public.