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AT LARGE: Make mine music

AT LARGE: Make mine music

There's an old adage that anything that's at all enjoyable is either illegal, immoral or fattening.

In the course of organising my wedding and subsequent reception I've been most preoccupied with the selection of music and performers. Not for me the simple purchase of "The Best Ever Wedding Album". I want to do this right.

Thankfully, this is one area in which the Internet has come to the rescue. The people who do music for weddings have embraced the Internet wholeheartedly. The flow of music samples is free and fast.

It's also highly illegal. This kind of copying is expressly forbidden by Australian copyright law. The groups sending me their own performances of 19th century fanfares are OK, but everyone else may as well be shooting people for all they're complying with the law.

The obvious solution is that the law must change. Digital distribution is the logical progression of digital recording and the proliferation of the Internet. Yeah, right.

Failing a major change of heart by the world's copyright holders, what must be found instead is a way for them to make money out of digital distribution. Napster was both the solution and the problem. Napster and its advocates argued an ultimately doomed case that making copies of copyright music in order to give it to your friends or distribute it on the Internet was perfectly legit as long as you bought the CD.

Thankfully, before its ultimate demise, Napster's technology did find friends at Bertelsmann, one of the world's biggest music companies. Now that Napster has declared bankruptcy, Bertelsmann has first dibs on the bones.

The law probably will never change. But when it becomes profitable, digital music distribution will magically become legal.

Then there's the Berne Convention, the 1971 document from which most international copyright law proceeds. It is not to be confused with the Geneva Convention, which is from a different bit of Switzerland and proscribes "cruel and unusual punishment" such as torture. As a rule of thumb, the Berne Convention says you shouldn't copy Celine Dion CDs, the Geneva Convention bans them outright.

Article 6bis of the Berne Convention says that the right of an author to be identified as the owner of a copyrighted work is a moral right which persists even after any financial rights have been transferred or expired.

Most of the MP3s I've been sent do not contain full copyright notices with the authors identified. Therefore my music swapping is both illegal and immoral.

With my luck, it'll be fattening too.

Matthew JC. Powell has exerted his moral right to be identified as the author of this work. But if you want it, let him know on mjcp@optushome.com.au.


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