Will U.S. Supreme Court Review of Copyright Laws Doom Musicians?

Will the U.S. Supreme Court come down heavy on musicians?(Photo: noyava (Flickr))
Will the U.S. Supreme Court come down heavy on musicians?(Photo: noyava (Flickr))

So, imagine you’re an orchestra, or someone who runs one. How has the economy been working for you lately?

That’s what I thought. But stay with me for a moment.

Think about the hefty fees you must pay in order to secure the rights for your ensemble to perform works under copyright.

The discomfort of such fees has been alleviated somewhat by the fact that once a composer has been dead 50 years, his or her works default (if left legally untended) into the public domain.

But in 1994 and 1998, Congress passed legislation that further restricted copyright control. Faced with licensing fees that could silence his orchestra, conductor Laurence Golan wants the copyright reins to be loosened.

This fall, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear Golan v. Holder, and the court’s decision might dictate what repertory performing ensembles will and will not be able to afford to program on their concerts.

So whom should copyright laws protect? The (dead) composers whose music is in demand for concerts, or the (living) artists whose livelihoods depend on performing music people want to hear?

Read more about this update on NPR’s Deceptive Cadence blog.

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