Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
Saturday, August 24, 2002

 

Lowering the bar for clearing copyright



I wrote the following to the Harry Fox agency on Tuesday, August 20. The agency is the largest clearinghouse of mechanical royalties (the per unit royalties you pay on your recording of your performance of a copyrighted song)



I quote from Harry Fox's web site:

    Under the United States Copyright Act, the right to use copyrighted, non-dramatic musical works in the making of phonorecords for distribution to the public for private use is the exclusive right of the copyright owner. However, the Act provides that once a copyright owner has recorded and distributed such a work to the U.S. public or permitted another to do so, a compulsory mechanical license is available to anyone else who wants to record and distribute the work in the U.S. upon the payment of license fees at the statutory "compulsory" rate as set forth in Section 115 of the Act.


Those royalties are set by congress - and are reasonable - 1.55 cents a minute per song. The problem is the mininum number of copies Harry Fox is willing to license: 500 copies, which at the statutory rate, for a double album (128 minutes of music), would cost somewhere around 1000 dollars!!!

I am a strong believer in copyright, and I want to recompense the artist(s) for their work. But the Harry Fox agency uses its near-monopoly on copyright to take making music out of the hands of ordinary people. Is it any wonder most people would rather just ignore the law rather than comply with such unreasonable terms? When you intend to manufacture, at most, 50 copies... Harry Fox is demanding 20 dollars a record! This is outrageous!

I would be perfectly happy to pay for some multiple (10,25,50) of copies and pay harry fox a small processing fee, in order to meet my statutory obligations and my moral obligation to the original artist. Really. Coming up with a few hundred dollars to make a legit record is a lot easier than coming up with thousands.

Like most monopolies, Harry Fox is slow to respond to changing demands and changing times. I look forward to their response to my email, and this blog. If they ever bother to send one.

 
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