Thursday, May 31, 2007

Throw A Penny: Robin Gibb takes chair at CISAC

The International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers, an umbrella body which represents royalty collecting agencies worldwide, has appointed Robin Gibb as its President. He says he's going to use his position to push for changes in copyright law, of course:

Bee Gee Robin Gibb says he plans to campaign for a change to copyright laws on behalf of musicians in the UK.

Currently, performers in the UK receive royalty payments for 50 years, at which point their work goes out of copyright.

"Artists should be getting royalties for the records that they make for life," Gibb told the BBC News website.

Gibb seems to be supporting the push to extend the copyright term in recordings in line with the mainstream push at the moment, but then manages to shoot his own argument down, almost by accident:
"I've been a songwriter since I was 8 years old," said Gibb. "I want to champion the rights of all those people who aren't getting a fair share from their creative work."

The 57-year-old said the Bee Gees had experienced several periods in their career where they did not control their music - including hits like Massachusetts and Jive Talkin'.

The singer said he wanted to make sure other artists did not suffer a similar fate.

"We were lucky because we had some good people working on our behalf, but the reality is that many do not," he said.

"There are still many major writers who still don't own their catalogue.

"It's a moral issue that people should get a bigger piece of the pie."

The BeeGees were lucky to regain their copyrights - and since most artists aren't lucky enough, all copyright extension will do is increase the size of the pie, not the proportion of the slice.

Gibb also fails to explain why musicians should be paid in perpetuity for the work they do on one afternoon - the bloke who built the studio the song is recorded in got paid when he did the building, he doesn't continue to extract an income from his bricklaying for the next fifty years; we're still waiting for the compelling explanation of why the works created inside a studio should, by their nature be treated differently. We're not saying we begrudge the money, it's just if we're being told there is a compelling moral case, we'd be fascinated to hear the philosophical justification that underpins it.

Gibb does have a strong plan, though, to create a label to help artists sell their music through iTunes rather than having to go through the existing label structure. We're not sure if he intends to do this under the auspices of CISAC - presumably there would be conflicts of interest in the collecting agencies also releasing music?