Copyright + Publishing

02002-07-18 | Uncategorized | 1 comment

copyright is a relatively recent invention, created to protect the editor, not the author. Even in the publishing arena, it is the editor who owns the right to copy, not the author of the book. In the music industry, the songs are owned by the label, not by the artist.

This is typical of the uninformed opinions one can find in the media. I found the statement above on Wired News this morning. It is misleading because it does NOT correctly state the problem of artist-record company relations.
Yes, the average recording contract states that the record company owns the RECORDING of the song, but not the copyright of the music contained therein. Let me give an example: I recorded “Snakecharmer” for the album “The Hours between Night + Day”, released by Epic Records in 1993. Epic Records owns the rights to that particular recording of the song. Since I made a deal with Sony Publishing, they own 50% of the publishing of that song while as the sole author I own 100% of the writing. I have the right to re-record “Snakecharmer”, in which case I own the new recording, but Sony Publishing will still own 50% of the publishing of the new recording.

The above statement that the editor owns the right to copy, not the author of the book is misleading, because the reason the editor holds that right is exactly BECAUSE the author signed it over to him for a certain amount of money. The exchange is straightforward really. I let you hold the right to copy in exchange for x amout of money per book you sell. However, an author might make a deal with one publisher for the printing and selling of paperbacks and another pubisher for the right to distribute e-books via the internet.

Here is where I think the beef with record companies SHOULD be:
The artist receives an advance against the royalties of the album in order to produce a recording. BUT, even after that advance is paid back from the sales of the product the record company continues to own the recording. I feel that either the record company should write off the cost of producing the recording OR the artist should pay interest on the loan (isn’t an advance against roylaties indeed a loan of money!) and then own the recording himself…..BUT, in the end this is all spelled out in the 70 page contract the artist signs with record company and my opinion on that is: if you don’t like the deal – don’t sign it.

Let’s face it, artists sign those contracts because they think they will get into a power position by selling lots of records and then their attorneys can renegotiate….

Here is my solution, my own ten-year plan if you will.

In 1991 I signed away 50% of my publishing to Sony Publishing starting with “Solo Para Ti” and ending with “Innamorare” so I could get the cash to build a studio in Santa Fe. Owning my own studio meant not having to rent somebody else’s studio, meant not having to travel to record, having to rent a house or hotel rooms, having to rent a car, or having to eat restaurant food for months at a time….

Starting with “christmas + santa fe” I own 100% of my publishing and since “In the Arms of Love” I also own the recordings of my music. It has taken me a long time, but I kept telling myself: steady drop hollows stone!

1 Comment

  1. Susanna

    Dear Ottmar

    I am interested in utilising your music which I believe is from Barcelona nights on my new website. Could you please let me know what is involved and if any license fees are applicable.

    Thanks Ottmar



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