01. September 2006 · Comments Off · Categories: imported, Ramble

Drew has a post about YouTube and the classical music videos you can find there. He talks about copyright law and asks what his readers think about these videos that are, for the most part, put up without permission.

Hmmm. This is a toughie.

Of course it’s not a difficult thing for the union. We all hear those “don’t photograph or tape this show” warnings at the beginning of musicals, and you can read those warnings in programs for opera, symphony and ballet. And, well yes, it’s illegal. (That’s kind of what “Against union regulations and copyright law” is about, yes?) Illegal means “against the law” for those of you who don’t know that difficult word. It’s sort of (or just like) stealing. Oh … maybe some folks don’t know that’s illegal either, but let me assure you that it is! :-)

Believe it or not, a concert that included yours truly was sold illegally many years ago. Someone found out about our illegal recording simply by browsing in a record store in Europe, if I recall correctly. And this is why, I believe, it should be illegal; making money off of something that you had no permission to record and sell is wrong. (We do deserve some compensation, don’t you think?)

But YouTube? No one is going to make money off of those brief videos; most have mediocre if not awful sound and are not great visually.

I guess one big thing, for me, is that I expect to be asked permission. I would like to have some say in what is out there in the big bad world, representing a bit of who I am. What one person thinks is great art is sometimes, to the performer, rotten stuff. What an audience member might not hear (like a slightly bobbled attack) is loud and clear to a performer. And we like to feel good about what we do.

Performers (and producers and managers) like to have a bit of control. Heck, we have so little control in so many areas … can’t we at least have this one? (Sad thing is, even with our rules we have very little say. There is one CD out there, done legally and all, that I sure wish I had had some control over; the thing was printed and I heard it after it was out and … sigh … I thought it was abominable. I can’t even listen to it, as I hear some balance issues and one bad splice—or something weird anyway— through the middle of a note of mine.)

I remember finding a promotional website with recordings of one of “my” orchestras; it was a bit shocking, as we hadn’t been asked permission. It was shocking, as well, because we didn’t know someone out in the hall was recording us. Those recordings were quickly taken off the website once the individual had been informed that this was illegal. Had the person asked us, we very well might have said “Go ahead”, although the union has a say in this as well and sometimes they deny something we are willing to go ahead with.

Still … moving back to the main issue: I actually do believe that these little videos at YouTube could help promote groups and do no harm. But that’s just me.

Now, all that being said, what a lot of folks realize is that it isn’t just the performers and the unions that come into play here. One of the YouTube videos is of San Francisco Symphony playing Lord of the Rings. Ahem. Sorry, folks, but this music is costly, rental only, and the music publisher has the rights. SFS probably wasn’t even allowed to record it themselves without permission. So it’s the publishing company that could take this video to task. See? We performers aren’t always the bad guys. Really. (Watch the video, though, and you know no one would make any money off of it; it’s recorded sideways, you hear coughing and the sound is bad. However, that doesn’t make it any less illegal.)

In any case, times, they are a changin’ … and, I suspect, some rules may change as well. I’m for (nearly) anything that encourages folks to come to concerts. It just needs to be done correctly.
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