On Hucknall on copyrightMick Hucknall is not a man who commands respect but that doesn't seem to have prevented the Guardian from providing him with a platform to spout some bollocks about copyright. Mick claims to be a socialist, which I suppose I might too, were I to claim to be an "ist" of any type. He wants copyright extended practically to infinity. I don't. Let's have a look at what the gingertopped ponce has to say.
Copyright is fundamentally socialist - it is radical and redistributive, subversive even.
Interesting opening gambit. "Copyright is socialist." That's going to take some explaining, because like all forms of law that entrench property rights, it seems that copyright is fundamentally not socialist at all.
It is not "radical". The wealthy have passed laws that protect their property since whenever. The poor rarely get consulted. It would be radical to abandon copyright for another model. It clearly isn't "redistributive". Having to pay someone to sample their work doesn't help creative ideas spread; rather, it prevents their spread. In an earlier age, creative artists freely borrowed from each other, not just themes and plots, but tropes, phrases, tunes, whatever. In this collaborative culture, talent rises to the top. The Hucknalls of the Renaissance did not need property laws to ensure their reward: they were able to rely on their ability.
How else would you describe a form of property that anyone can create out of nothing?
Here is the fundamental mistake in Hucknall's piece. And he fucks up so early! What is the error? It's threefold: first, the property created is not the copyright, it is the property that the copyright protects; second, it is not created out of nothing -- nothing in our culture is -- if it were, the listener, reader, viewer would have no reference points to make sense of the piece with (I won't bore you with a theory of communication here; I'm simply asserting that and will bicker it out with anyone who is fool enough to disagree); third, forms of property created out of "nothing" would not be "socialist" -- it's precisely the pretence of the capitalist that they create wealth out of nothing at all and consequently deserve enormous rewards. It's no surprise Hucknall is a mate of Tony Blair's: he must love a man who is able so brazenly to describe how capitalism works as "socialism".
Copyright's democratising effect is seen most clearly in the music business. Anyone who can speak, sing, rap or hum and operate a simple sound recorder can create a copyright song. Imagination is the only limit.
But anyone with those abilities could create a noncopyright song. What is Mick actually saying? He is saying anyone can make money in music; isn't it great?
Well yes, it's lovely. It's wonderful that anyone with a modicum of talent -- or none at all if they are pretty and know a good producer -- can make a ton of money in the music biz. But it's not socialist. Socialists do not celebrate the structural insanity of our system, which permits enormous reward for little labour. And they do not celebrate mechanisms that exist to keep those inequalities in place.
Which is what copyright does. You may think it protects your writing from someone's stealing it, but when was the last time someone wanted to steal some of your writing? Less facetiously, there are other means to protect you from this kind of theft. You can establish ownership of a whole work simply by having it notarised. Even without a law of copyright, you would likely be protected. In any case, few publishers, agents or readers -- the people you would realistically fear might steal your work -- are likely to risk it.
And making a few people wealthy is not "democratising" anything. I won't waste any more words on explaining why Hucknall has misunderstood what "democracy" means. It's enough to say it is not a simile for "levelling".
At this point, Hucknall takes leave of what little senses he has so far shown:
Copyright promotes artistic creativity and the free circulation of ideas.
This is the complete opposite of the truth! How could it begin to be true? Copyright limits you in taking others' work and adapting it, twisting it. But Hucknall has worse to come:
More than 20 years ago, musicians seized the opportunity for collaboration offered by new technology in the form of digital samples. Far from obstructing this exchange of inspiration, copyright facilitates sampling
How the fuck does it do that? How am I finding it easier to sample Money's too tight to mention if I have to pay the ginger twat a ton of money to do so? All it "facilitates" is the increase in Hucknall's bank balance.
How can a man who's willing to say something like this be taken seriously? Whatever your views on copyright, you cannot think that it helps people make records from samples. If there were no copyright, they could make songs entirely from samples with no fear of being bankrupted by the very rich record companies who defend their artists' property.
Hucknall is, I think, a fan of reggae. Like me, he probably enjoys the music of the early 70s, a huge explosion of talent and creativity. I wonder though whether Hucknall is also aware that the artists involved often stole one another's ideas, tunes, backing tracks even, to make whole new songs from. Copyright would have killed that movement.
and translates the creative debt into income for the creator of the borrowed work. Musical sampling is the perfect example of copyright's flexibility in fusing the ever-changing worlds of art, commerce and technology.
The "creative debt"? Hucknall's music is clearly and obviously influenced by certain artists of earlier years. Did he pay them a big slice of his money? Did he pay the descendants of the people who developed the idiom he uses? Those of the people who invented the chromatic scale? No. Some kinds of "creative debt" are okay with Mick.
Hucknall goes on to witter about the interwebnet (I'll spare you). I note only that rich musicians like Hucknall are shit scared of the interwebnet, because it provides a means for us to "redistribute" their income by stealing their music. To be fair, most people who steal a lot of music love music. Many steal what they can't afford. Like me, many buy what they can and steal what they can't. I always have, always will. I couldn't possibly contribute more to the music business, because I have no more money to give.
Hucknall then goes on to say:
In this environment, arguments against the extension of the copyright term in sound recordings from 50 to 95 years are retrogressive and misconceived.
He says this but he doesn't show why. As Marina Hyde pointed out in the Guardian, many do not support this extension because it does nothing at all for artists but creates an aristocracy based on intellectual rather than physical property. They do not like the idea that their grandchildren will be paying Hucknall's grandchildren for something they did not create, which is part of their shared cultural heritage.
This concept is "socialist" by the way: that we should not personally own what ought naturally to be shared. I believe -- strongly -- that the music we dance to, love to, sing along with should be considered part of our shared capital because it is created from a shared base. I do not mind that Hucknall makes money from his endeavours (although I do mind how much) but I do not think he should consider his work all his.
Copyright is not a monopoly restricting the free flow of ideas.
No one says it is. This is a straw man, but it is the basis for this whole article. Somehow Hucknall has convinced himself that copyright helps people create, rather than helps people make money from what they create. The former, of course, is something laudable; the latter a little bit dirty.
Allowing valuable sound recordings to pass into the public domain does not create a public asset
But of course it does. It allows people to have copies of music they would not otherwise hear. How can it be a good thing for those people that they cannot hear music they cannot pay for?
So, finally, we get to the truth of it:
it represents a massive destruction of UK wealth
Micky boy, I'm a socialist and let me tell you, socialists do not give a fuck about the destruction of personal wealth. We're all for it!
We want you not to have a mansion when others don't have homes. We want you not to have millions when there are kids who don't get to eat tonight. The "massive destruction of ... wealth" is one of the things we very much desire.
But Mick has run up his true colours. He is not about socialism, sharing. He is about wealth, keeping the rich rich.
and a significant loss to the UK taxpayer as exploitation moves offshore or into the grey market.
I was a UK taxpayer, so let's pretend I still am. How am I losing if someone pirates Mick's records? Erm.
Sorry, you carrot-topped clown, you're going to have to help me out with that one. I don't think I lose out at all. I don't pay more tax because someone hometapes your stuff.
Okay, I know what he means. If record companies make smaller profits, they pay less tax, so there is less money to go round, so I must pay more.
Dude, I'd care so much more if your record company didn't hire accountants to try to avoid tax. And I'd care double if you didn't too.
Copyright extension is partly about equality for performers, with other creators and with those in the US and elsewhere.
Those creators have equality under our law already. You mean that you want laws that are as rewarding for your grandchildren as they will be for Madonna's.
I note only that America is not generally considered a great model for "socialism".
It is also about maintaining the cultural value of works by controlling their exploitation.
He keeps writing this stuff without explaining what it's supposed to mean. How is the "cultural value" of a work maintained by not allowing it to be "exploited"?
How does it acquire "cultural value"? You could argue that it acquires value by becoming broadly known among those who share the culture. Restricting its being known to those who can afford to pay for it would seem to be a limit on this, rather than something that promotes it.
But Hucknall does not mean "cultural value". He means "monetary value". He measures value purely in terms of pounds. I suppose rich people tend to. I suppose also that an artist such as Hucknall, who wishes to be admired, wants recognition because he has sold a lot of records and made a lot of money, because he sure as shit won't get any critically. His music is rubbish: pap that bank clerks lap up; music for people who don't like music very much. That must hurt. Mick likes to mention that he was inspired by the punk rock movement, but Mick must also be aware that no one who is into punk is into Mick. That must hurt too.
But, most of all, it is about nurturing the development of a truly revolutionary explosion in small-scale grassroots creative businesses.
The only even vaguely effective argument for copyright is that it protects the rights of small artists to make money. But this argument fails because small artists do not have the means to enforce copyright, and are more likely to benefit from the broader exposure that comes from having their copyright breached than they ever are from enforcing it against the people who steal their music.
In that previous paragraph is all that needs to be said about Hucknall and his defence of copyright, but I'll expand on it: it protects rights that only the rich really need worry about, while the poor, starving artist will generally benefit much more from the increase in exposure. Being known brings the reward. When your record is played on Radio One, that a million people hear it is worth a lot more to you than the money you are paid. If some of those million tape the song from the show and play it to their mates, yes, you have had your copyright infringed, but have you been harmed? If some of those mates go out and buy your record, not in the least.
A final thing to say about Hucknall's piece is that he never explains why extending copyright is a good thing for the small artist, except that it equalises us with America. It seems a great idea for Hucknall's grandchildren, particularly if they can find some way to extend the copyright so that their grandkids can also feast from Hucknall's good fortune, but the small artist's independent label will have disappeared 70 years hence and their grandkids will likely not have the means to pursue their copyright.
Still, it is ever hilarious to read a very rich, greedy man telling the world that he is a socialist. They always betray themselves because politics is all too often the man. Who you are will out; you cannot hide it in principles you do not really hold to.