“Earlier this year, while completing work on a song for the movie Mission Impossible-2, we were startled to hear reports that a work-in- progress version was already being played on some U.S radio stations. We traced the source of this leak to a corporation called Napster. Additionally, we learned that all of our previously recorded copyrighted songs were, via Napster, available for anyone around the world to download from the Internet in a digital format known as MP3….My band authored the music which is Napster’s lifeblood. We should decide what happens to it, not Napster — a company with no rights in our recordings, which never invested a penny in Metallica’s music or had anything to do with its creation. The choice has been taken away from us.

What about the users of Napster, the music consumers? It’s like each of them won one of those contests where you get turned loose in a store for five minutes and get to keep everything you can load into your shopping cart. With Napster, though, there’s no time limit and EVERYONE’S A WINNER-EXCEPT THE ARTIST”Lars Ulrich, Band Member, Metallica in a speech he gave when he appeared before the US Senate Judiciary Committee, July 11, 2000.

Intellectual Property is intangible property, we all agree. It is property built from a foundation of sheer grey matter and this feature is what makes it unique- yet assailable and destructible. The laws protecting intellectual property are numerous but If you ask lawyers who are specialists in the field, the laws are insufficient for real protection in today’s world.

Protecting ideas is one of the hardest parts of the Legal Practice. Whilst it may be easy to reel out IP laws intelligently, it is a yeoman’s job to try to get these laws to be up to speed with the many loopholes created by the advancement of technology and its effect on the spread of information. Whilst it may be superbly beneficial to have information at one’s fingertips these days, such may become extremely detrimental when one considers that no one seems to have control over information anymore, especially when such information is intellectual property, in liquid form, that needs to be protected simply because it is someone else’s property which he/she hopes to earn money from, or at least, receive acknowledgement for.

Technology came upon us with speed and it sure brought along with it, huge benefits and well, even greater problems. One of the areas of artistry that has reaped the benefits of technology, and been pricked by the thorns that accompanied the rosy benefits, is the Entertainment industry. In the past, the easiest way for an artiste to get across to a wide audience was through the mass media and album sales. Individuals could hardly have access to an artiste’s work without paying something tangible-except same is shop-lifted. Music pirates were everywhere then but all they could do was sell bootlegged copies of the original effort of the artiste. These days, everyone is a potential pirate. All you need is access to internet and you could get an almost- original copy of a song-in crystal-clear MP3 format.

There are so many legal and illegal internet websites that offer free downloads of just about any song or movie in the world, old and new. Some of these websites offer ‘premium” downloads for a token and a promise of “membership” in exclusive clubs where everybody gets the privilege to steal more songs and videos. The definition of “premium” could range from whole album downloads to songs and videos recorded in high-definition, state-of-the-art formats. This is not to say that songs and videos are the only things that could get stolen by this “cabal”. Documents, Video Games, Computer Applications, Programmes and anything that comes in the form of a file could get stolen too. This cabal calls what they do peer-to-peer file sharing.

The list is actually endless but the recording artiste stands as one of the most victimised because he doesn’t have any else that he relies on for sustenance and reward for efforts. Already, “advancement” in the entertainment industry has ensured that it is now possible for record labels to enter into 360-Degree recording deals with artistes. 360 Degree deals are contracts which ensure that the artiste yields more than the traditional percentage (nay all) of his rightful income than he normally would to his record label- his rights to merchandise income, endorsement deals, record sales, concert revenue and publishing rights. The 360-Degree deals have been labelled as “downright unconscionable” and described in many other legal jargons (which don’t prevent us lawyers for drawing up those contracts anyway) but it does seem to be catching like wildfire simply because artistes have been left with no choice. When money talks, we all know what walks.

To be continued next week

By Seun Idowu

PS: We are not endorsing Metallica

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