New Zealand Adopts New Laws to Safe-Keep Music Copyright For 70 Years

New Zealand Adopts New Laws to Safe-Keep Music Copyright For 70 Years

Photo: Mick Haupt

The world of music is changing, turning out more like the movie industry. It’s turning into what Disney made out of its franchises: a never-ending cycle of copyright claims that might end one day, but for now it only seems to be eternal. This is because the company, as now record companies are doing, turns to judges to expand their copyright claims under different statutes and acts, like, for example, what Disney did back in 1998 with the “Bono Act”, passed by the US Congress to help them retain the rights over cartoons like Mickey Mouse and many others.

Unfortunately, something similar is happening in the music industry, with a lengthy campaign led by some of the world’s most famous musicians, like Paul McCartney and Cliff Richard, to preserve the rights to their music for longer. This is mainly a European Union initiative. Some other countries, like the United States and some Asian and Oceanic countries, are implementing this agreement, mostly in order to gain favor with some of the big record companies.

Some of the artists behind this initiative argue that they have rights over their creations, and so should their families after they depart, but there are also a lot of people that believe that music should be the patrimony of human kind, and that withholding it for such a long time is a crime against culture. The fact is that even in this legal battle that was eventually won by those artists behind it, New Zealand has adopted this new music copyright protection, and now music in the country will have copyright protection for 70 years.

What’s behind this?

Besides having a good reputation as a country in terms of keeping copyright laws in vigor, some speculate that the real reason behind such initiatives is the fact that people like Paul McCartney and some other artists are trying to keep a grip on some of the most famous songs in the world. For example, the ex-Beatle was trying for years to reclaim about 178 songs from Sony/ATV, including some “juicy” songs like “Love Me Do,” recorded back in 1962 and still protected by many countries, was released by the US (where copyright laws establish a 95-year period of protection) after McCartney complained.

Of course, the defenders of the musician say that he’s trying to do so in order to “fulfill the dream of John Lennon” and “imagine” a world where music like the Beatles is free of copyright. However, the majority of the Internet, particularly in New Zealand, is “roasting” McCartney because they believe this is a legal battle to combat “piracy” and establish stricter laws that punish those who listen to their records without a permit.

Actually, piracy levels in the European Union, the United States, and Asia are at record levels, but thinking that imposing harder or even lengthier copyright laws will make this stop is nothing but a big mistake. It’s been reported time and time again that these measures only contribute to creating more “pirates”, as opposed to a more flexible position that might even be more beneficial, as they would be able to include them in their platforms, as Meta is planning to “share” the income of music in their virtual environment as well as other sound effects used.

Will other countries follow?

In legal terms, many of the “developed” countries will surely follow such an initiative, even when they have their own set of laws that determine such copyrights. As in the case of China (one of the biggest consumers of music in the world), it’s also quite a hard market for some of the big companies like Sony to try to change laws. But many other countries might start to increase the number of years copyright laws protect the creations of artists.

The fact is that even when the spirit of the norm is to save the rights of musicians, what they are actually doing is keeping the investment of record companies safe after a large amount of lobbying. In particular, in countries like the US, famous for having Congress working for some companies, like the case mentioned before, when Disney asked for new laws to protect their assets, or even when companies now own the rights to several of the best-selling albums in history for 95 years.

It might be a good measure for some musicians and their families, but in most cases, the experience shows that it is in fact just a safe-keep for big record companies that don’t want to lose their grip on some of those revenue-creating tracks. That´s also why, in some cases, royalty-free music is making its way onto some of today s most popular social media platforms.

But in other cases, the use of licensed music in videos, like in the case of TikTok, is also creating a legal issue between countries and the implementation of that social media in their lands. Since they have agreements between the owners and the platform, some countries argue that according to their laws, they shouldn’t be able to use some songs in users’ videos. It’s only a matter of time to know the real reasons behind these copyright laws. Using logic, it is clear that they are only going to exacerbate the piracy problems that are killing small record companies.

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