Artists, lawyers lament ‘copywrong’ people and search as enabler of piracy

NEW YORK–Moral rights versus individual rights. That’s the struggle the entertainment industry faces these days when individual rights have blurred the lines between individual ownership and what is other people’s content, the title of the breakfast forum hosted by Gotham Media last November 18 at the Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz at 40th Street on Madison Avenue.

Setting the tone early, singer-songwriter-record producer Blake Morgan was livid throughout the hour-long talk, as he riled at the way piracy is downplayed and what it really means— robbing people off their livelihood. “Without copyright, I have no rights,” he said. “There is a fundamental lack of respect for my profession by these ‘copywrong’ people.”

Morgan was lamenting how his work is perceived to have no value and how it affects many musicians like him who are middle class, and even those who are big entertainment names like Metallica which was “brought to its knees” by people clamoring for —and downloading — free music. But there are artists fighting back like Taylor Swift who are not allowing their music streamed online. This week, Adele did the same.   

Morgan was with panelists Sandra Aistars, senior scholar and director for Protection of IP at George Mason University; Michael Friclas, EVP and general counsel at Viacom; and Stephen Mayes, photographer. Rick Kurnit served as moderator.

“We are dealing with a cultural issue,” Mayes said, as he stressed how people neglect to see the product: the person or what he calls “who you are.”  

Friclas said courts are wrestling with the copyright issues but he offered a glimmer of hope. He cited how European courts are blocking pirate sites. The movie-streaming site Popcorn Time is now off the air, he said.

He added how Paramount Pictures is also making efforts to narrow the gap of theater screening and online pay-per-view screening to limit unscrupulous online streaming.

There’s a lot of work to be done. “(There are) 20 hearings in Washington (on copyright issues),” Aistars said, adding how misuse of fair use is also a concern. A big company got its way to make books available online through some deal with publishing houses–but it left the authors without any compensation at all.   

Morgan can’t believe there is a discussion whether piracy is good or bad, but his story of a how a 22-year-old gets his music free online somehow and his father is a musician is the perfect example of how tough the battle is for any artist to protect their work.

So what other methods can be done to curb piracy? Fricklas said, “Search (engine) is the problem. It’s the enabler of piracy.”


Dennis Clemente

Shuttling between New York and other US cities, Dennis writes about tech meetups when he's not too busy working as a Web Developer/Producer + UX Writer and Digital Marketer.

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