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Forum Post: Open Letter To Musicians And Artists Regarding Occupy Wall Street

Posted 10 years ago on Dec. 1, 2011, 10:23 a.m. EST by helpontheway (0)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

This letter is meant to provoke action. At the very least I hope some artists with influence will challenge the power structure of their industry within their own means. I read a Rolling Stone interview with Bob Dylan in 2006 where he briefly discussed the poor quality of present-day recordings. He didn't have a problem of everyone "gettin' music for free." His reasoning was that "It ain't worth nothing anyway." Through Dylan’s own words, it seemed that he didn't have a problem with music sharing. Why should it bother him? He is worth millions and probably owns more than one home. I didn't think about that specific article since I initially read it until now.

I began to process many thoughts after watching the news coverage on November 8th of the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York. That day specifically stood out because it was the moment that Crosby and Nash visited the protestors to show their support. They were singing their old songs from the 60’s, amid a sea of people. The scene was fantastic. I also thought it was great to hear that many artists came together to compile "Occupy This Album" in support of the OWS movement. I went to the Internet to look for more information about the project. I visited occupymusic.org and scrolled down the page reading the info and watching the videos.

That is when three small words opened the Pandora's box in my mind. "All Rights Reserved." At the very bottom of the webpage was the copyright stipulation that stuck out like a sore thumb. It's great that their rights are reserved but who reserved the rights of the 99.99% of the rest of us? How can they be credible representatives and justify speaking for the rights of others? I thought these were valid questions to ask. I started visiting some of the websites of artists that participated on the "Occupy This Album" project including Crosby and Nash and Jackson Browne. I noticed that their pages had copyright restrictions reserving rights also. That's when I made the connection that some of the corporations lobbying Washington’s politicians to manipulate laws in their favour are the same companies giving support to these artists through recording contracts. Along with the investment banks, speculators, and the oil business, the entertainment and media conglomerates, recognizable by name, have taken part in rigging the political and legal systems by lobbying politicians for favourable legislation, enhanced profits and the redistribution of wealth. For example, speculators are legally protected from being revealed in the oil commodities market and the Sonny Bono/Mickey Mouse Copyright Term Extension Act extended copyright terms by 20 years allowing for greater maximization of profit. The rich get richer through the manipulation of legislation.

Crosby and Nash led me to think of the other icon of the 1960’s, Bob Dylan. I started thinking again about that Rolling Stone interview from 2006. What a boost it would be for the Occupy Wall Street movement if artists began revoking the rights of corporations to use their music and creative works to make money and forfeited their own proprietary ownership for the sake of the public. If there are really artists out there that truly believe that music "ain't worth nothing" and that the greater importance should be placed on transparency, human compassion and sharing then something spectacular could truly be accomplished.

It is a fact that artists, writers, musicians, and inventors have the ultimate right to forfeit their intellectual property to the public domain. In other words, creative individuals do not need to either copyright or patent their works. They have the option to give up their accomplishments to the public at any time they feel appropriate. Some original works residing in the public domain are all of Shakespeare's plays, every composed symphony by Mozart and Beethoven, and Einstein's Theory of Relativity. This is good company indeed. One critical point that needs to be stressed is that artists can give up their intellectual property rights while they are still alive. They can also forfeit the copyright to either a single artistic work or to their entire library. This is a simple fact hidden by spin and legal jargon. The obvious reason not to place works of creativity into the public domain is for the sake of generating money.

The most inspiring way for artists and musicians to support the Occupy movement is to voluntarily forfeit their proprietary rights to either some or all of their creative works and allow it to become part of the people's domain. Big name artists wouldn’t be affected by this forfeiture, as they would still make an abundant amount of money through touring. Corporations, politicians, and lobbyists would seriously be affected if they began to lose their moneymaking assets to the public. I know some struggling artists cannot afford to do this. Other artists are simply just as greedy as the bankers on Wall Street. This letter is not for them. However, artists like Crosby and Nash and Jackson Browne, who proudly claim to have a social conscience and who have made millions of dollars in royalties throughout the years, can afford to release their music freely to the public while forfeiting all restrictions. For the musicians who doubt this plan of action, I suggest they give up one song to the public domain. They can see what transpires and judge for themselves. I’m confident that this act of sharing by notable musicians and artists would change the world and the Occupy Wall Street movement would have a victory.

Better late than never to make things better.

All rights to this letter are forfeited to the Public Domain by the author



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[-] 1 points by AFarewellToKings (1486) 10 years ago

Makana provided free download for 'We Are The Many', the #occupy song he entertained the diners at the APEC summit with. Great post. Dylan also said 1) this world is ruled by violence but i guess that's better left unsaid 2) I can even see the day when your home garden will be against the law