Saturday, 6 February 2016

Tango and copyright

Many thanks to Anon for the following comment:

'The linked pirate site indeed has a huge archive, but the legality of the stored material is strongly questionable to say the least.

I'd rather support folks who put in serious effort to transfer, preserve and (legally) sell tango music, such as those at Tango Tunes.

Or, if you'd want to recommend free (but still legal) way of spreading of Argentine tango music, how about linking tango radios, such as Argentine Tango Radio?'

You allege this is a pirate site: can you show that? I only know it has been online for some years. When I revisited it recently I assumed it would have been taken down long ago if the content is illegal.

I'm not sure how copyright works. I think in British copyright law copyright on music expires 50 years after recording. I seem to remember the Beatles 'Love me Do' came out of copyright a few years ago, and some aging rockers moaning about losing an income. However, it seems that if a record company has re-released the music, they (but presumably not the recording artist?) retain the copyright for another 50 years. I believe Argentine law used the same 50-year copyright period, and a few years ago this was extended to 70 years. I heard there's been opposition to this change, and a legal challenge on the grounds that the music (presumably tango) was already in the public domain, and had been taken back by private owners – presumably meaning the record companies.

& what is the position of people like Ignacio Varchausky in Buenos Aires, who is digitising tango, and putting high-quality tango on sale? Can he do that legally, if the tracks are already claimed by a company?

I'll add a few more links below. I'm glad to have a good collection of CDs, mostly from stores in Buenos Aires but some bought online here, and I enjoy the excellent quality. At the same time, I'd resent it if the music has become a corporate asset, to be exploited for the benefit of shareholders who most likely know and care nothing for it. People talk about protecting the performers in their old age, but I'm not sure if tango performers have ever been entitled to royalties from record sales, although one would certainly hope so. Performers now have contracts which include royalties, but I'm not sure if that would have been the case in Argentina 60 or 70 years ago.

Personally, I think the principle of 'public domain' is a great one and Project Gutenberg, a massive archive of free downloads of out-of-copyright books, is a wonderful affirmation of it. Scanned and proof-read by volunteers, it's maintained on donations. You can go into a bookstore today, and buy a brand new, legal copy of, say, a Dickens novel. I'm sure you can buy a legal download online too. But the same material is there in the archive, free, and also legally. (great catalogue and excellent advice) (El Bandoneón series) (Buenos Aires tango radio) (Tango Digital Archive: Ignacio Varchausky's great project to digitise and make available tango recordings.)

(& of course there's plenty more...)