The County Review
The County Review
The On Line Voice of the Community
In Central New York

The County Review
Honor Artists Copyrights
          You donít need to be a lawyer to be an artist, but you do need to know one legal term: copyright. To all creative artists--poets, painters, novelists, dancers, directors, actors, musicians, singers, and songwriters -- the term matters dearly.
          Copyright is more than a term of intellectual property law that prohibits the unauthorized duplication, performance or distribution of a creative work. To artists, "copyright" means the chance to hone their craft, experiment, create, and thrive. It is a vital right, and over the centuries artists, such as John Milton, William Hogarth, Mark Twain, and Charles Dickens, have fought to preserve that right.

Brief History on Copyright Laws
          Copyright law all started with the "The Statute of Anne," the worldís first copyright law passed by the British Parliament in 1709. Yet the principle of protecting the rights of artists predates this. It may sound like dry history at first blush, but since there was precedent to establish and rights to protect, much time, effort, and money has been spent in legal battles over the centuries.
          In the United States, the principle took hold during the Constitutional Convention of 1787 when James Madison suggested that the Constitution include language "to secure to literary authors their copyrights for a limited time." The provision passed unanimously. It is found in Article I, Section 8, of the U.S. Constitution. It statesÖ
          The Congress shall have Power . . . To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries . . .
          Before free speech, before freedom of assembly, before freedom of religion, there was copyright protection in our Constitution. The founding fathers knew copyright protection could improve society by preserving the economic incentive for people to come up with brilliant ideas and inventions. They also realized the fundamental fairness of granting control of the creative work to the author.
          President George Washington signed the first copyright law on May 31, 1790. Nine days later, author John Barry registered his work, The Philadelphia Spelling Book, in the U.S. District Court of Pennsylvania, making it the first "writing" protected by copyright. Since then, the copyright laws have been revised numerous times. The revisions have been aimed at balancing the authorís right to reap the benefits of his or her work, and societyís ability to benefit from that same work.
          Today, in the recording industry, singers Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Sheryl Crow, Don Henley, Bonnie Raitt, and many others, are fighting for their rights. In the music business, stars are made not born, and it takes plenty of hard work to make it. Poe cut her debut album, "Hello," in 1995. She knows the value of a copyright, "Copyright protects the creative process.Itís rough out there.There is nothing more inspiring to creativity than independence and that requires protection. If youíre an artist that can do something nobody else can, you need to know that your work will not be diluted or mass produced." Itís as simple as that.
          The principle that work one creates belongs to the creator and should be controlled by the creator is as timeless as it is global. Likewise, for centuries, new inventions, from the printing press to the Internet, have threatened that principle. For centuries, advocates have resolutely defended it. The RIAA is just such an advocate today.

Reprinted from the Recording Industry Association of America

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