With the growth of online communities like MySpace and the virtual world of Second Life, which has over 1million members and its own economy, it seems that the more sophisticated the online world gets the more complicated the music royalty / copyright situation becomes.
Technology is creating more opportunities for music use and the corporate giants are reacting by suing people and are attempting to apply historical royalty collecting models to technologies that they have little understanding of.
There now seems to be a global epidemic of copyright infringement and we have a generation that think music is free. I personally don’t think the knee jerk reaction of the industry helps; in fact, it further alienates music fans.
It seems that many independent rights owners, composers and artists that use the web are more flexible about when and how their works can be used. I believe movements like Creative Commons may be part of the way forward as this enables the creator to have more control over which rights they reserve, effectively meaning that they can offer limited free usage whilst reserving the right to generate a revenue from their works.
In my opinion, people should be taught the value of music but feel that the heavy handed approach of the mainstream industry is alienating the generation of people that could well be useful in finding a solution. Why did Universal not try and work with MySpace and MySpace users to create a revolutionary new music platform within MySpace?
Furthermore, the myriad of royalty areas and restrictions around music use make it far too complicated for most people to want to understand.
Now that people can play music in Second Life, I do wonder what stance the mainstream industry will take on this. Effectively, you have people playing their own music collection in their virtual houses and bars. There is an obvious performance royalty issue here; people have music playing that other members of the public can hear. What will the industry do? Will they sue every one in Second Life?
You could be playing music privately in your own virtual garden or on the virtual beach and other people could teleport or walk in and be able to hear your music. Technically, you are then hosting a performance.
Is it time yet to rethink copyright and royalty policies on music use?
I am watching this one with interest indeed.