Copyright Maximalists Can’t Even Tell the Truth About Their Events

It’s become a bit of a cliché nowadays, that those in the copyright maximalist gig can’t tell the truth on anything .Their studies are filled with bogus claims, their press releases are questionable, and the DMCA notices they spew out seem to best be described as following a Spray and Pray strategy.

Until now though, they’ve at least been able to fall back on their events to be fairly factual, at least in the organization. That could now be going out the door as Friday Vanderbilt University in Tennessee hosts a copyright panel.

Five international experts will discuss the current state of copyright law Oct. 24 at an open forum at Vanderbilt Law School. “Is Copyright Working for Songwriters and Composers? A Global Panel at Vanderbilt Law School” will be held from noon to 1:30 p.m. in Flynn Auditorium at the law school, located at 131 21st Ave. S.

Or so says the news release put out by the school. So who are these five experts? Well, the moderator is Vanderbilt law professor Daniel J. Gervais, who is also head of their “intellectual Property program” and has quite an impressive CV, including WIPO, and WTO. Unfortunately, he’s also spent a number of years working with and for lobby groups, as his own bio states;

Daniel Gervais focuses on international intellectual property law, having spent 10 years researching and addressing policy issues on behalf of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC), the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organizations (IFRRO), and Copyright Clearance Center, Inc. (CCC). He is the author of The TRIPS Agreement: Drafting History and Analysis, a leading guide to the treaty that governs international intellectual property rights.

That last bit there, that’s what makes him an ‘expert’ on the current state of copyright law – he literally wrote the book on a significant portion of it. However, rather than the expected academic detachment (the so-called ‘ivory tower’) every one of the acronyms after the first two are private companies that lobby groups and/or middlemen that exist to make things easier for the big-boys while ignoring the little artists that need the help.

Still, he is an expert in the law as it currently is. So, who else will they have?

Jörg Evers, composer and president of GEMA in Germany (a performing rights organization similar to ASCAP or BMI);

Never heard of him. I’ve heard of GEMA though. A collecting society so greedy, you basically can’t use youtube in Germany, because what GEMA has decided is ‘fair’ is well above the market rate. Given the significant contempt most artists (and people in general) have for GEMA, inside Germany and out, I’d hardly call him an expert in basic economics, let alone copyright. Yet he’s also a composer it seems, so what’s he done? Turns out it’s an album 35 years ago and a single 4 years after that, Wow. Maybe he’s just focused on TV work? Well not really. According to IMDB his last TV work was Ballermann 6 in 1997. And yes ,he has songwriting credits over the last few years, but that’s for songs he wrote in the 1970s (because copyright means ‘work well once, and you and your descendants can live off it in perpetuity’)

So, while Evers might have been a composer once, he’s not now (any more than I’m a student, just because I make a living from the stuff I did years ago as a student). And as for being an expert on copyright, only in the sense of what NOT to do. Anyway, who else?

Jean-Marie Moreau, songwriter and former vice president of SACEM in France (a performing rights organization); and

Never heard of him either, but I’m not much for French music. SACEM’s another collecting society one another that’s left a bit of a bad taste in artists mouths, by demanding a cut even if a band plays only its own music. Having a venue pay SACEM, who’s then pass on roughly 85% of it to the band at some time in the future is CLEARLY better than the venue just giving it to the band (otherwise how else will SACEM pay its bills?). Nor does he seem to be that prolific a songwriter. He’s so un-notable, in fact, he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page. Expert? Hardly, unless it’s on making money from artists (which might explain why he’s no longer one)

Eddie Schwartz, songwriter and president of the Music Creators of North America (founded to provide a voice for music creators in the discussions about national and international copyright law and policy).

His name didn’t ring a bell for me either, but he did write some popular songs in the 80s (such as Pat Bennatar’s Hit me with your Best Shot) but nothing much in the last 20 years. I’d never heard of his organization either, and when I found the website, I understood why.

It seems to be a joke. The website even has an honest to goodness hit counter, like back in the 90s, and I happened to be visitor number 1391! I tried some links off the main page, and they took me straight back there so I was also visitors 1392-1394. 1400 visitors, for a domain registered for more than 2 years. This lowly blog has had more visitors so far this month than he’s had hits. Clearly it’s an important and influential body. An expert on the 80s, perhaps, and on ‘Website design in 1994’ but modern copyright, hardly. Finally there’s

Lorenzo Ferrero, composer and president of the International Council of Music Authors (founded to protect the rights of music creators);

Again, never heard of him. I’ve not heard of his organization (which is CIAM for short, because France) either. However, he is an actual hard working composer. A significant number of creative works in the last year or two so finally, an actual current artist! His organisation’s website is, like Eddie’s, one that favours style over substance, but at least this one is modern, and not something Geocities would trash for not being up to standard.

There is one interesting little thing though; about the only actual pieces of information on the whole site is the list of members of their Executive Committee. Take a good look there and you might see some familiar names. Yes, that’s right, Jörg Evers and Jean Marie Moreau. What a coincidence! And then there’s also Eddie, who’s representing the MCNA (which we’ve just established is pretty much himself)

Wow, so this event actually has 4 guests who are all representatives of one lobby group. I’m guessing when someone wrote the release, they worked out that when every member of the panel represents one body, you end up with just one mouth.

When most of the panel last 'created', the top was cutting edge.

When most of the panel last ‘created’, the top was cutting edge.

The other issue is why three of them are listed as composers/songwriters, when they’ve not done it for years. It also makes the capability of the guests to even address the topic questionable at best.

How will Eddie, Jean-Marie or Jorg know if copyright is working for Songwriters and Composers? Only Lorenzo is one any more .The rest are just members of the parasitical lobby-class that negatively affect songwriters and composers. What’s more they’re all old men. Gervais is in his mid-50s. Moreau’s age isn’t listed anywhere, but with his first song published 35 years ago, it’s a safe bet he’s also mid-50s at least. The other three are in the early 60s. And as we all know, old guys are great when it comes to new technology.

If someone’s going to host a panel asking if copyright is working for songwriters and composers, they need three things.

  • People actively working as songwriters and composers, and thus know what they’re talking about. (they have one, plus the moderator)
  • A wide range of ages (55-64 is not going to cut it)
  • A wide range of opinions – 4 guys who are all officers in a lobby group, moderated by someone that’s worked for that group’s parent group is anything but.

With a lineup like this, the panel can end up going one of two ways. It could be a brief unopposed recitation of the lobby group’s position, or (more likely) emotion-filled rants of how copyright was better 30 years ago, and how best to bring those glory days back.

That much would be obvious to anyone who might have read the notice if listed accurately

“Moderated by former industry lobby group researcher, Daniel Gervais, participating with him is

  • Jorg Evers, 80s composer, and CIAM Board member
  • Lorenzo Ferrero, Composer and CIAM president
  • Jean-Marie Moreau – 80s songwriter and CIAM Board Member
  • Eddie Schwartz – 80s songwriter, and partner representative to CIAM

And that’s why they now have to lie even about who is at their events, because lying has just become a way of life, even to themselves.

If anyone does go, please, let me know what went on.