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When it comes to copyright, I tend to believe that the copyright owner can be as nice as they want to be. This goes against most folks, but it's how I feel. However, while I believe people can be as nice/mean as they care to, sometimes I just have to shake my head.

My wife picked up a Harry Connick, Jr. Christmas CD this past weekend. (And it's very good by the way.) While looking at the song list, I noticed that two companies refused to give Harry permission to print the lyrics to the song.

Can anyone explain the logic behind this? What is to stop someone from simply taking notes while the song is sung?

Again - I tend to think this is within the copyright owners rights.... but what do they think they are protecting?

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About Raymond Camden

Raymond is a senior developer evangelist for Adobe. He focuses on document services, JavaScript, and enterprise cat demos. If you like this article, please consider visiting my Amazon Wishlist or donating via PayPal to show your support. You can even buy me a coffee!

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Archived Comments

Comment 1 by Nathan Dintenfass posted on 12/2/2003 at 7:22 PM

I can't help but comment that most of the "crusaders" working against the RIAA/MPAA are trying to protect constitutionally granted fair use rights, not trying to undo the rights of the copyright holder. Copyright is not a right of absolute monopoly as outlined in the law, but that is what the various legal maneuverings (the DMCA being the most obvious contemporary example) have attempted to turn it into.

Comment 2 by Raymond Camden posted on 12/2/2003 at 7:33 PM

That is a valid point, although I'm not really trying to bring up the _whole_ copyright issue as it is a whole other thread.

In general, my feelings do NOT match what the Constitution says. I don't think we need to force things into the open. I'm probably wrong and I'll gladly admit it. The example I like to give is Disney. People keep complaining that Disney keeps getting a copyright extension. My response is - who cares? Society is NOT being held back because we don't have Mickey in the public domain.

Comment 3 by g.wygonik posted on 12/2/2003 at 8:19 PM

hey ray

i think there's several reasons why the lyrics may not be able to have been printed...

a lot of times, a third-party "owns" the publishing rights to not just the music of a song, but the lyrics as well. in some cases, the two are owned by seperate entities.

there's a possibility that the owners of the printed lyrics didn't find it lucrative enough (or at all) to allow the printing of said lyrics. the _performance_ of the lyrics is entirely different, and most likely covered by the song publisher, not the lyric publisher.

it could be that the lyricist has some sort of contract that only allows the lyrics to be printed with sheet music, or perhaps, they don't have a contract for lyrics at all, in which case the publisher may not have the ability to allow printing of the lyrics without direct consent of the author (who may be dead)...

just some bits to chew on. :-)


Comment 4 by Grant Skinner posted on 12/2/2003 at 8:45 PM


Another morsel to chew on: While not having Mickey in the public domain certainly isn't going to hold back society, don't you think there is a huge benefit to having literature, music and art in the public domain? If the internet were paired with more public-minded copyright laws (such as those originally drafted in the US), low income individuals would have free/low-cost access to thousands (millions?) of fairly recent literary and research works - it would be a huge step forward for equal access to information, and equal opportunity.


Comment 5 by Raymond Camden posted on 12/2/2003 at 8:49 PM

I absolutely, whole-heartedly, believe there is a GRANT benefit to sharing literature, music, and art. However, I don't believe in forcing people to share. Most artists want to share their work, but should they be forced to? Imagine I write a novel and I do not publish it. Would you have the right to break into my house just because my novel would benefit humanity? You would not.

Comment 6 by Mark Lynch posted on 12/3/2003 at 5:30 AM

Ray, the point is not that everything should be free but that copyright is in effect the right to have a monopoly over your work for a limited period of time. If you never publish it then no one has a right to see it - if however you publish it and make your money out of it then after the originally 18 years (I may be wrong with that) or so presumably you have made your money and if it is no longer profitable you will not republish it. So the options are that it disappears into oblivion or is released to the public domain.

The whole area is a big messy can of worms.

Comment 7 by Raymond Camden posted on 12/3/2003 at 5:21 PM

Mark, let me stress that I'm not trying to interperet the Constitution, or even the intentions of the writers. I'm giving my opinion, which I know is NOT the same as the law states now. I truly do think that the author should have 100% ownership over his or her work. Period. If the author chooses to share, then so be it, but outside of that I think you can be as greedy as you want to, if you so choose.