Blog EthicsPosted: September 30, 2012
Just a short reminder that I´ll be deleting all the MP3s on this site this week. If anyone wants some of the digital files: get them now.
Most importantly because I hate digital files deeply. I personally have got no use for them. The discussion and controversy surrounding them has spoiled my enjoyment of listening to music. I love records. And I love to buy them.
Why now, after creating and distributing digital files for five years?
Because I´m an artist myself, it never felt right to take other artists creative property and distribute it for free. I never intended to create a permanent online download archive either, where everyone can just grab a file at random and run. Then last month Scott Soriano has really got me thinking. When he put his blog Crud Crud – that inspired me to do mine – on hiatus, his call for a new set of blog ethics resonated with me.
What are the blog ethics?
Not so very different from what I have already gone by the past five years. They will be a mixture of the set that Scott Soriano outlined in his commentary and, because we have different laws in Germany, German copyright laws.
1. The first thing is that I will make every attempt to seek out and obtain permission from an artist. That´s the main and more difficult and time consuming change of approach. The artists have a right to be asked if I can use their work and the right to be paid for it. If I can´t find them, I won´t use their work. If they don´t want to give permission, I won´t use their work. If I can´t pay them, I won´t use their work.
2. If the artists are anonymous or pseudonymous and it´s been 50 years after the record was first published, I will present their work.
3. If I have established that they are dead, anonymous or impossible to track down and their material appeared on a state-run label, I think it is fair to present their work.
Will having stated blog ethics mean that posting MP3s on Berlin Beatet Bestes will be legal in the future then?
Sadly not. German copyright law does not know the term “public domain”. Basically every artistic work is protected by copyright. In Germany GEMA has the legal monopoly on all music rights. Because they have agreements with most other international copyright collectives, GEMA claims that they have the copyrights to every piece of music that is published in Germany and worldwide. So far they don´t have to prove otherwise. The music user has to prove it.
This creates the absurd situation, that even if you´re an artist and you want to put your own music on your website, you still have to pay GEMA first. Eventually they will return money to you, but first you have to pay them. And if I wanted this site to be legal I would have to seek GEMA´s permission to publish every single piece of music first and pay for it.
Likewise, most material that was released by state-owned labels, is still under copyright today. For example in the early 1990s the catalog of the communist East-German label Amiga was bought by Bertelsmann and then sold to Sony. It does help a handful of artists who established themselves in a dictatorship and then after it´s demise, continued in the new system. But it´s absurd that if you want to publish a communist propaganda record from the GDR, you still have to ask Sony, their former capitalist enemy.
Unlike in the U.S. where work is under copyright for 95 years, in Germany a work is only protected 70 years after the death of its creator! Luckily, like Italian law, German law also knows the 50 year rule, but only concerning anonymous or pseudonymous works, where the death of the creator is unknown. In that case the date when the record was first published is relevant, mostly after 50 years. I will go by that.
Still anytime GEMA could still say: this is ours! And then I will have to prove to them, that these songs are not in their catalog…