I’m a Copyright Nerd

I have a strange fascination with stories about copyright.

I took a basic course in copyright law when we started Theatrefolk . I figured that it would be a good idea since intellectual property is the entire basis of how we make our living. I found the various rules immensely fascinating. The laws have changed many times over the years, so there are these huge charts out there to help you determine whether or not something is still under copyright.

From Boing Boing, the greatest blog on the internet, comes this fascinating story of a filmmaker who made a film based on some recording made in the 1920’s by a singer called Annette Hanshaw.

As it turns out, the recordings themselves are out of copyright, but the underlying songs themselves are still under copyright. It’s not quite clear whether she knew this when she made the film, but now she appears to be between a rock and a hard place because the copyright holders are asking for a licensing fee that she can’t afford.

I think the licensing bodies are being unjustly portrayed as big ole’ meanies in this story. True, there needs to be copyright reform, but that doesn’t change the fact that they own the rights to the music and can do whatever they want with it.

In one respect I feel her pain. We’ve had some very good plays submitted to us that we couldn’t publish because they were based on material still under copyright. A few years ago Lindsay wrote an amazing adaptation of a poem by a long-dead poet, half of whose poems are in the public domain and half aren’t. Guess which half her play was based on?

Just sit tight a couple more years and you’ll find out what it is!!

About the author

Craig Mason