Saucers of Mud

May 20, 2008

The Orphaned Works Bill

Filed under: Uncategorized — matt w @ 2:46 pm

[UPDATE: The previous link to the cartoon didn’t work; I found this permalink, which explains that it isn’t in the print newspaper and isn’t intended for regular readers. So the snark isn’t called for. Anderson’s thoughts on the matter are worth reading, and make me more dubious about the law in question — if the illustrators are really up in arms against it it’s more likely to be a bad idea. On the other hand, I have my doubts about the idea that this really prevents someone from selling exclusive rights to a work. Also, it’s mildly ironic that Anderson gives as part of the reason for copyright that no one can alter his work without his permission, but it appeared on the Chicago Tribune comics page without the context that he intended and that explains the meaning. In fact, I’m generally opposed to the idea that other people shouldn’t be able to alter work without their permission; I don’t think that Gilbert O’Sullivan should be able to stop Biz Markie from sampling him; this is aside from the question of whether Biz Markie should have to pay him, which is a much grayer area. (Ideally I think that the originator of the sample should get some kind of percentage of the royalties, which wouldn’t prevent small acts from doing any sampling, but would mean that if the sampled song was a huge hit the sampled artist would get lots of money. But I don’t know how to enforce that.)]

Nick Anderson, who drew this cartoon, appears not to understand how the second person pronoun works. That is: Why does he say “Your Copyright” when most of the people reading the cartoon have no copyright?

Anyway, I hadn’t heard of the Orphan Works Act, but it sounds pretty good. Thanks for spreading the word, Nick!

Less snarkily, there are obvious complications here — I doubt that Nick Anderson is a real fat cat — but copyright is horribly abused by legacy owners, and I’m generally on the side of people who want to make it easier to use ideas that are out there. If we could have a reasonable copyright period perhaps this act wouldn’t be necessary; as has been observed the de facto copyright period is however long it’s been since Steamboat Willie, plus enough lead time to allow another extension. (Another trite observation: It’s ironic that Disney is such a malefactor here, since so many of its movies are based on works that fell into the public domain before they came along.)

May 3, 2008

Two observations

Filed under: Uncategorized — matt w @ 7:41 am

Raymond Chandler:Ross MacDonald::Douglas Adams:Terry Pratchett

So the other night I went to see the great band Inner Fire District do a show with a special set of Yiddish songs of labor, resistance, and protest, and (in the other set), they did their Waitsian version of “You Are My Sunshine,” which started with this verse:

the other night dear as I lay sleeping
I dreamt I held you in my arms
but when I woke dear I was mistaken
and I hung my head and I cried

except they changed the last line to “I hung myself and died,” but that’s not relevant to my question, which is: How can the second line not be “I dreamt that you lay by my side”? How? How? It doesn’t make any sense. Ordinarily I’d think this was something that had got distorted in the folk process, but “You Are My Sunshine” was actually written by former Louisiana governor Jimmie Davis, so I don’t know.

(A bit of googling reveals that the “by my side” version can be found in some online lyric transcriptions, especially in combination with the phrase “came disillusion” which seems so silly that it must be the original.)

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