Monday February 22, 2021’s Smile of the Day: Copyright

On this Day:

In 1774, the British House of Lords ruled that authors do not have perpetual copyright.  The claim of perpetual copyright arose out of legal reasoning advocating for a common law right of copyright. Common law copyright is the legal doctrine which grants copyright protection based on common law of various jurisdictions, rather than through the protection of statutory law.

Copyright is a type of intellectual property that gives its owner the exclusive right to make copies of a creative work, usually for a limited time. The creative work may be in a literary, artistic, educational, or musical form. Copyright is intended to protect the original expression of an idea in the form of a creative work, but not the idea itself.

Back in the late 1700’s, legal disputes based on common law copyright versus statutory law copyright arose.

Common law copyright is based on the contention that copyright is a natural right and creators are therefore entitled to the same protections anyone would be in regard to tangible and real property. The proponents of this doctrine contended that creators had a perpetual right to control the publication of their work.

The “natural right” aspect of the doctrine was addressed by the courts in the United Kingdom (Donaldson v. Beckett, 1774) and the United States (Wheaton v. Peters, 1834). In both countries, the courts found that copyright is a limited right under statutes and subject to the conditions and terms the legislature sees fit to impose. The decision in the UK did not, however, directly rule on whether copyright was a common-law right.

In the United States, common law copyright also refers to state-level copyrights. These are ordinarily preempted by federal copyright law, but for some categories of works, common law (state) copyright may be available. For instance, in the New York State 2005 case, Capitol Records v. Naxos of America, the court held that pre-1972 sound recordings, which do not receive federal copyrights, may nevertheless receive state common law copyrights, a ruling that was clarified and limited with 2016’s Flo & Eddie v. Sirius XM Radio.

But let us return to the 1700’s battles over copyright known as the “Battle of the Booksellers.”

Until the enactment of the Statute of Anne in the House of Commons, publishers could pass on their royal grants of copyright to their heirs in perpetuity. When the statutory copyright term provided for by the Statute of Anne began to expire in 1731 London booksellers thought to defend their dominant position by seeking injunctions from the Court of Chancery for works by authors that fell outside the statute’s protection. At the same time the London booksellers lobbied parliament to extend the copyright term provided by the Statute of Anne. Eventually, in a case known as Midwinter v. Hamilton (1743–1748), the London booksellers turned to common law and started a 30-year period known as the battle of the booksellers. The battle of the booksellers saw London booksellers locking horns with the newly emerging Scottish book trade over the right to reprint works falling outside the protection of the Statute of Anne. The Scottish booksellers argued that no common law copyright existed in an author’s work. The London booksellers argued that the Statute of Anne only supplemented and supported a pre-existing common law copyright. The dispute was argued out in a number of notable cases, including Millar v. Kincaid (1749–1751) and Tonson v. Collins (1761).

When the case of Donaldson v Beckett reached the House of Lords in 1774 only one Lord, Thomas Lyttelton, spoke in favour of common law copyright. But a majority of the judges spoke in favour of common law copyright. Lord Camden was most strident in his rejection of the common law copyright, warning the Lords that should they vote in favour of common law copyright, effectively a perpetual copyright, “all our learning will be locked up in the hands of the Tonsons and the Lintots of the age”. Moreover, he warned that booksellers would then set upon books whatever price they pleased “till the public became as much their slaves, as their own hackney compilers are”. He declared that “[t]his perpetuity now contended for is as odious and as selfish as any other, it deserves as much reprobation, and will become as intolerable. Knowledge and science are not things to be bound in such cobweb chains.” The House of Lords ultimately ruled that copyright in published works was subject to the durational limits of the statute. The reasoning behind the decision is disputed, though most scholars agree that the House did not rule against common-law copyright.

According to Patterson and Livingston [Ed: learned authors on copyright], there remains confusion about the nature of copyright ever since the Donaldson case. Copyright has come to be viewed as a natural law right of the author as well as the statutory grant of a limited monopoly. One theory holds that copyright’s origin occurs at the creation of a work, the other that its origin exists only through the copyright statute (per Wikipedia).

First, a Story:

What legal rights should biological clones have? Copyright…

Second, a Song:

The Rolling Stones are an English rock band formed in London in 1962. Diverging from the popular pop rock of the early-1960s, the Rolling Stones pioneered the gritty, heavier-driven sound that came to define hard rock. Their first stable line-up was bandleader Brian Jones (guitar, harmonica, keyboards), Mick Jagger (lead vocals, harmonica), Keith Richards (guitar, vocals), Bill Wyman (bass guitar), and Charlie Watts (drums). The band’s primary songwriters, Jagger and Richards, assumed leadership after Andrew Loog Oldham became the group’s manager in 1963. Jones left the band shortly before his death in 1969, having been replaced by Mick Taylor, who in turn left in 1974 to be replaced by Ronnie Wood. Since Wyman’s departure in 1993, Darryl Jones has served as bassist.

Rooted in blues and early rock and roll, the Rolling Stones started out playing covers and were at the forefront of the British Invasion in 1964, also being identified with the youthful and rebellious counterculture of the 1960s. They then found greater success with their own material as “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, “Get Off of My Cloud” and “Paint It Black” became No. 1 hits in the UK, North America, Australia and Europe. Aftermath (1966) – their first entirely original album – is considered the most important of their formative records.[2] In 1967, they had the double-sided hit “Ruby Tuesday”/”Let’s Spend the Night Together” and then experimented with psychedelic rock on Their Satanic Majesties Request. They went back to their roots with such hits as “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” (1968) and “Honky Tonk Woman” (1969), and albums such as Beggars Banquet (1968), featuring “Sympathy for the Devil”, and Let It Bleed (1969), featuring “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and “Gimme Shelter”. Let It Bleed was the first of five straight No. 1 albums in the UK. In 1969, they were first introduced on stage as ‘The Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World’.

Aftermath is a studio album by the English rock band the Rolling Stones. The group recorded the album at RCA Studios in California in December 1965 and March 1966, during breaks between their international tours. It was released in the United Kingdom on 15 April 1966 by Decca Records and in the United States on 2 July by London Records. It is the band’s fourth British and sixth American studio album, and closely follows a series of international hit singles that helped bring the Stones newfound wealth and popularity that rivalled their contemporaries, the Beatles.

The album is considered by music scholars to be an artistic breakthrough for the Rolling Stones. It is their first to consist entirely of original compositions, all of which were credited to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Brian Jones emerged as a key contributor and experimented with instruments not usually associated with popular music, including the sitar, Appalachian dulcimer, Japanese koto and marimbas, as well as guitar and harmonica. Along with Jones’ instrumental textures, the Stones incorporated a wider range of chords and stylistic elements beyond their Chicago blues and R&B influences, such as pop, folk, country, psychedelia, Baroque and Middle Eastern music. Influenced in part by intense love affairs outside the band and their demanding touring itinerary, Jagger and Richards wrote the album around psychodramatic themes of love, sex, desire, power and dominance, hate, obsession, modern society and rock stardom. Women feature as prominent characters in their often dark, sarcastic, casually offensive lyrics.

The album’s release was briefly delayed by controversy over the proposed packaging and title – Could You Walk on the Water? – by the Stones’ manager/producer Andrew Loog Oldham. Decca and London rejected his idea, fearing the allusion to Jesus walking on water would provoke a negative reaction from Christians in the US. In response to the lack of creative control, and without another idea for the title, the Stones bitterly settled on Aftermath, and two different photos of the band were used for the cover to each edition of the album. The UK release featured a run-time of more than 52 minutes, the longest for a popular music LP up to that point. The American edition was issued with a shorter track listing, substituting the single “Paint It, Black” in place of four of the British version’s songs, in keeping with the industry preference for shorter LPs in the US market at the time.

Aftermath was an immediate commercial success in both the UK and the US, topping the British albums chart for eight consecutive weeks and eventually achieving platinum certification from the Recording Industry Association of America. Rivalling the contemporaneous impact of the Beatles’ Rubber Soul (1965), the album reflected the youth culture and values of 1960s Swinging London and the burgeoning counterculture while attracting thousands of new fans to the Rolling Stones. An inaugural release of the album era, it marked the beginnings of the LP replacing the single as popular music’s dominant product and artistic medium. The album was also highly successful with critics, although some listeners were offended by the derisive attitudes towards female characters in certain songs. Its subversive music solidified the band’s rebellious rock image while pioneering the darker psychological and social content that glam rock and British punk rock would explore in the 1970s. Aftermath has since been considered the most important of the Stones’ early, formative music and their first classic album, frequently ranking on professional lists of the greatest albums (per Wikipedia).

Though Aftermath (in both its slightly differing U.S. and U.K. versions) has been rightfully hailed as a breakthrough for the Rolling Stones in that it marked their first album of quality original material, there was still a pretty big gap between their best songs of the era — “Paint It Black,” “Lady Jane,” “Mother’s Little Helper,” “Under My Thumb,” “Out of Time” — and their album filler. “Doncha Bother Me” was definitely some of the Aftermath filler, and one of the less impressive songs on the record, though it was certainly characteristic of their overall petulance during this period. Musically, it’s closer to straight blues than most of the other Aftermath tracks, though it has a slight leg up on many British Invasion stock blues rewrites by virtue of its stinging slide guitar and surly Mick Jagger vocals. The tune’s kind of repetitious and unimaginative, and lyrically has the sort of snide attitude toward the world at large common to many songs Jagger and Keith Richards were writing in the mid-’60s. It’s mildly interesting, though, to note that the song — unlike a good number of other Jagger-Richards compositions from this time — isn’t complaining specifically about what a drag a girl or girls can be. It’s more a “get lost” message to the world as a whole, perhaps to the media and fans who were starting to hound them all over the place as they asserted themselves as the second most popular group in the world. And it does at least contain one striking lyric, when Jagger warns a vague unidentified target not to copy him no more, adding that “the lines around my eyes are protected by a copyright law.” Perhaps this reflected the Stones’ increasing awareness of and vigilance toward music business hassles and legalities as their empire grew and their management affairs grew more and more tangled (per

Well for what’s it’s worth, here is Doncha Bother Me by the Rolling Stones.  I hope you enjoy this!


Thought for the Day:

“Lose your dreams and you might lose your mind.” – Mick Jagger



Have a great day!

© 2020 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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