The issue of copyright has long interested the ethnomusicological international debate. If for scholars of “exotic” music (the term is rhetorical, but it helps us to understand) the problem was (and should be) placed in terms of a legislative program that would help protect the musical productions (and in general expressive) which, by definition, have no author, by analysts of “authorial” album market, the question of law has taken a very different profile, that has come to identify with the management of royalties. The question, however, remains the same for both contexts of production: how you can have the music of someone once they are out of copyright?
The music of oral tradition – despite formal guarantees of academics and international institutions – are not included in the protection of copyright. This – except in cases such as “Wimoweh”, a song written in 1939 by Solomon Linda, whose original title was “Mbube”, made famous by Pete Seeger and the Weavers in the fifties – not much has shaken the conscience, especially since the value in economic terms, the revenue has always been relatively small. The scenery changes dramatically when you consider, however, the value of the proceeds, in terms of copyright, of songs such as “Yesterday”, “Hey Jude” or “All you need is love” by the Beatles, “(I Can’t get no) Satisfaction” or “Wild horses” by the Stones, “Mr. Tambourine man” or “Blowing in the Wind” by Dylan. This same scenario – which is underpinned by the elements of the international musical consciousness – has even threatened to explode in 2012, when – according to a law that has been amended in recent weeks in Europe and Italy – the rights of the fundamental pieces of first recordings of Dylan and the Beatles were “free” and, therefore, at the mercy of all (someone took advantage of it and gave to the press, for example, a box set of four CDs of Dylan, titled “The 50th Anniversary Collection”. The 86 songs of which it is composed have been recorded by Dylan in 1962, including some versions of “Mixed Up Confusion”, “Sally Gal”, “Please Do not Go”). This is because copyright law provided for the protection of the songs only for fifty years after their first publication. Just in recent weeks the term of protection of copyright has been extended up to seventy years, both in Europe and in Italy . As you can read on rollingstonemagazine.it, “recordings of Miles Davis, Frank Sinatra, Chuck Berry and other stars of the ’50s and ’60s have fallen into public domain in Europe in the past. Legislators of the Old Continent was pressured to change a law, as it stands, puts at risk the Beatles, Rolling Stones and other giants of the era”. This extension of copyright to seventy years is “or everything that was originally recorded in 1963 or soon after. All that is before 1963 is [protected] with a clause called use it or lose it, that basically says ‘If you have not used the recordings so far, you can not do it from here on out”.
This article is available also in: Italian