Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The spinning of greed

This can't be good. The Musicians' Union is taking issue with the British National Party raising money by selling albums on its website.

For the benefit of my non-British readers: the BNP is a nasty organisation, unabashedly xenophobic and racist. British musicians are mostly, to a greater or lesser degree, bleeding-heart lefties. It's hardly surprising that the musicians take exception to their music being used to finance their enemies.

But apparently they can't stop it. Some idiot sold the publication rights to their songs, and now the BNP's merchandising arm, Excalibur, is putting them on compilation albums.

I'm reminded of Krusty the Klown: "They drove a dump truck of money up to my house! What was I supposed to do? I'm not made of stone!"

You sold the rights, losers. You could've negotiated contracts that left you in control of how your music could be sold and by whom - but that wouldn't have paid so well, would it?

So look at it this way. You made money by selling rights that the BNP is now exploiting. There's nothing to stop you now spending that money to campaign against the BNP. Unless, of course, you've already spent it keeping your teenagers in Ferraris, in which case that was your decision and I hope it went well for you.

You've also got two things the BNP doesn't have: talent, and a fan base. If you can't convert that into more solid votes than the less-than-5% the BNP routinely scoops, you're not trying.

But that's not what the Musicians' Union wants. What it wants is yet another extension to copyright law that would give musicians control over their own music, even if they've already sold it.

That's "moral rights", and in fact they already exist in British copyright law. Musicians have the right to object to "derogatory treatment" of their work, and if they really cared, they could try to make an argument that selling songs under a BNP-affiliated brand name amounted to "derogatory treatment". The courts may or may not support that interpretation, but we won't know until someone tries.

What the Musicians' Union seems to have in mind, however, is more. More rights to be given retroactively to artists who seem to be suffering from "seller's remorse". The Musicians' Union has a long track record of asking for contracts to be unilaterally rewritten in their favour. Last year it was extended copyright terms for sound recordings -- an argument for which there is no coherent case either economically or morally. This year, apparently, it's back to "control".

Let's not allow the BNP case to become a wedge whereby yet more rights get taken away from us, the consumers. Let the musicians use the rights they have, before complaining about those they haven't.

Bankers of the world could learn from the musicians. Here are wealthy people who have actually won public support for campaigns that amount to no more than "we deserve more money!" See, it can be done...

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