Copyright is a limit, posed as a protection. In other words, copyright is a control mechanism, no matter for those who are taught to control their own products, but a very serious issue involving exploited artistic creativity. By definition, copyright is, “the exclusive right to make copies, license, and otherwise exploit a literary, musical, or artistic work, whether printed, audio, video, etc.: works granted such right by law on or after January 1, 1978, are protected for the lifetime of the author or creator and for a period of 50 years after his or her death”(dictionary.com).
The law mentioned is a standing consequence of the Copyright Act of 1976, which did not go into effect until 1978. Marketed as a protection for the artist, this act was ,in reality, always in the favor of corporate interest. While the act does protect the work of independent artists for 50 years, given the very big ‘if’ that they understand or have been rightfully informed about how copyright works and know how to go about protecting their ‘rights’, it actually extends that protection by 50 percent for big business, granting 75 years of protection for corporate authorship (in other words “work created by an employee as part of his or her job”). Effectively, the protection under this act is longer once the artist no longer owns their work.
Intellectual property is a misinformed understanding of creative expression. Defined as, “property that results from original creative thought, as patents, copyright material, and trademarks” the notion itself separates ownership from creation, placing ownership of an original creation in a document rather than creation itself(dictionary.com). This can’t be done! Those who do what people enjoy must receive the benefit of their labor and retain the ability to do so. When an artist agrees to a record deal, it is because this allows them to be employed by their craft, yet is often at the expense of long term ownership, and done in the name of immediate needs. This allows those with power(capital) and foresight to limit the dynamics of popular music, by facilitating the artist(distribution) without actually enabling their social movement, or substantially their long term social mobility, and taking ownership of future capital their music may generate(for example the material results of people sharing music with their kids, often from before they were born).
The enjoyment(or dispute) of this may be in taking back, i.e. stealing music, but the beauty remains in creating anew. When music circulates culture grows. Digital culture has enabled the growth of music outside the industry. The ability to share and distribute music immaterially, independant of manufacturing(beside depending primarily on manufactured MP3 devices), has put the product in the hands of more people, but has reduced the overall revenue of the industry, maintaining a structure that underpays most employees, while pointing to the few they have made rich as their cover.
The more people use digital means to challenge the current structure, the more gradual change can occur. However, artists need an independant network to collect and find ways outside of the industry to survive. The internet enamors this possibility, but the overall initiative although underway, also appears vastly underfunded. So while there have actually emerged websites which allow artists to charge for downloads without taking a percentage of the profit, this isn’t solely sustainable without a marketing network. Essentially, the possibility for most independts has become distributing free music online and thereby hoping generate revenue from live performance. Hip-Hop is perfect for this, because there is no ownership, and the people support and supply the innovation.
Remix culture, in practice, was built upon the foundation of Hip-Hop culture, accessing conscious streams of cultural memory and creating new rhythms between genres, yet Hip-Hop culture has become as misconceived as intellectual property and the ensuing developments produce more ignorance towards their cause than full experience of their content. Finding the value of the music remains in connecting to human expression, and we can connect to more than ever before in human history, but this still remains only a crack in the door we have really yet to open.