Sunday, January 25, 2009

User Generated Content - Music Law

Exams are passed, results are in and - as you might have noticed - I have the degree of Bachelor of Law (LL.B.). So that is why I did had the time or inspiration to sit back and post anything on this blog.

What also happened is that I have accepted the invitation by the European Law Students' Association, sector Bonn, Germany to give a speech at their conference from 26-27th February 2009 about User Generated Content about Music & Law! And this post is to give a preliminary preview on this lecture.

Music & Law

<1> The Story
The thing about music is that many people enjoy it. Whether this is classical music or pop/alternative or even hiphop music. There are all kinds of music styles, and together with that even many more musicians.

Music makes us dance, has emotions in it, is being used at different locations everywhere in the world. It makes us celebrate, mourn or makes us avoid being annoyed by any silence.

With new technologies, and more important, that these fast spreading technologies reach 'household' in a very fast way, people nowadays only need a computer and some internet infrastructure to get familiar with music. In other words we 'download' mp3-files, e.g. music, because we enjoy, because we consume, because it is accessible and because it is easy accessible.

>Note that I am repeating the argument, but not the content<
With new technologies, and more important, that these fast spreading technologies reach 'musical entities' in a very fast way, many musicians only need a computer and some internet infrastructure to sample and create music. In other words, the internet provide for many musicians the bases to re-create, re-mix and re-use.

<2> The Law

Most (at least) western state laws constitutes a freedom of expression and of information. For the European Union article 10 section 1 of the European Convention of Human Rights does apply:

"Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include
freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and
ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.
This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of
broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises."

Of course these rights can be subject to limitations, as is done with paragraph 2 of the same article. One of them can be granting a time-limited copyright for creators of a work. Copyright constituted two main exclusive rights for authors of content first to multiply and second to publish their works. This can be done in any form and in any way they like, copyright law is not prescribing nor limiting the forms.

<3> The Technology

Technology – controlled artefacts of any kind – enable people to do things they have not been able to do before the technology was introduced. And because of the huge impact and the access of artefacts/ technology, people are able to do things, they don’t even know they can, nor that they know whether this is allowed or not anyway.

In this short preview we’ll stick to the idea that this is also the case with ‘household’ to use computers (with internet access) are being used all over the world. This new technology leads to many innovative projects, non-web and especially web-based activities are booming.

<4> The Innovation
There are three cooperating stages to innovate. Technology - controlled artefacts of all kinds - enables people to do things they have not been able to do before the technology was introduced. For technology to be successful, it needs to be used by people. Without technology being used by people or being developed so more people can use it, it is doomed to be forgotten. At the final stage, the law prohibits people to use technology or applications of technology.

Dr. Pieter Kleve, has put that in a nice graphic design, an alternated version is published here (1):

So basically, with consumers on one hand and with musicians on the other hand at one medium: the internet, we have an established market. Consumers and content creators are meeting at one medium. But along with the very accessible technology development for consumers, also regular consumers can become content creators. And so where we do have numerous of possibilities to consume, share and recreate music (or even, to generalize it: culture). In term of the diagram: the circle of business administration (what people want/ need) is growing bigger, though the law might interpret the new technologies (with all its ‘open norms’) as infringement.

My lecture will concentrate three issues:

- the desired effects considering consumers and creators of culture

- the law in at least 3 countries(2)

- examples of new business models for consumers ánd content creators online. There a no need for new laws, no new interpretations of the law. There is a way that the desired effect, that technology is being used for the benefits of all of mankind, without that the law limits the effects unwanted for those who embrace it.

Hope to see you in Bonn, Germany. The lecture will be held in German, to subscribe please go to:

(1) P. Kleve, "juridische iconen van het informatietijdperk", Deventer: Kluwer 2008, p.23 For Download available at: in hard-copy via:

(2) Probably, USA, France and the Netherlands.