Mick Hucknall is talking out of his fat ginger arse

He’s in the Guardian, wibbling about copyright. He says “Copyright is not a monopoly restricting the free flow of ideas”; presumably he’s a different Mick Hucknall to the one who moaned back in 2000 that his major label deal meant the record company, not Simply Red, owned the copyright for the band’s master tapes.

Here’s a few examples for mad Mick:

Recently, a French AIDS awareness advertising campaign withdrew two ads under threat of suit by Walt Disney Inc. One ad featured Snow White in suspenders and fishnet stockings and the other featured Cinderella in a seductive pose. Disney contended that these ads constituted copyright infringement, and the mere threat of litigation caused the AIDS awareness group to pull their ads. This incident is interesting both because it did not require actual litigation (the mere threat of litigation assured compliance) and because the characters Snow White and Cinderella were not created by Disney, and were folklore characters for hundreds of years before the Disney company was even formed.

…In 1996 the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) told the Girl Scouts of the USA that scout camps must start paying a licensing fee to sing any of the 4 million copyrighted songs that ASCAP controlled (Walker and Fagan). This included girl scout staples such as “Happy Birthday”. Many camps went songless for months, until newspaper and talk show attention generated enough outrage that ASCAP was forced to say that they had no intention of prosecuting girl scout camps for violations of singing songs around the campfire. But in backing down, ASCAP still insisted that they still might prosecute camps for playing background music without a license.

I particularly liked this bit by Hucknall:

Copyright promotes artistic creativity and the free circulation of ideas. More than 20 years ago, musicians seized the opportunity for collaboration offered by new technology in the form of digital samples. Far from obstructing this exchange of inspiration, copyright facilitates sampling, and translates the creative debt into income for the creator of the borrowed work. Musical sampling is the perfect example of copyright’s flexibility in fusing the ever-changing worlds of art, commerce and technology.

I’m sure Negativland, 2 Live Crew, the KLF, DJ Danger Mouse, Beastie Boys, Public Enemy and the Verve would all agree. When Negativland sampled U2, the band’s label nearly bankrupted them; 2 Live Crew were sued by Roy Orbison’s estate; the KLF had to delete an entire album; Danger Mouse’s Grey Album will never appear in the shops; Beastie Boys had to pull a track because AC/DC refused to let them use a sample; Public Enemy didn’t release a track because the Beatles sample would have cost insane sums to licence; and The Verve never received a penny from Bitter Sweet Symphony because they used a Stones string sample.

In an ideal world, perhaps, copyright would protect creators. In the real world, copyrights are owned by companies – most work is work-for-hire, which means the person who pays you owns the copyright. A real example from my own line of work: I’ve written a number of books which, for various reasons, weren’t widely distributed. The books are now out of print and I very much doubt they’ll ever see the light of day again. I’ve still got the original text and it’d be a doddle to put them online for free as PDFs, but unfortunately I don’t own the copyright so I can’t. Unless the publisher decides to reprint, that text will remain locked away forever. Just like Simply Red’s major label master tapes.

The whole point of copyright was to give creators a limited period during which they and only they could profit from their work, and once that period was up the work passed into the public domain. It really doesn’t work like that today.