Leave it to Billy Bragg to make the world a better place. In case you have been living under a rock recently, Billy and his management made it their personal mission to help rectify the rights of music that is put on MySpace. Under the original MySpace rules, if an artist posted music on their profile, all contents on said page would remain property of MySpace and Rupert Murdoch. The company could do whatever they wanted with the product, without any benefit going to the artist.
This week Billy Bragg posted a lengthy MySpace journal entry stating that his efforts have been completed and artists once again are the owners of their work. His statement is found below.
A STATEMENT FROM THE BARD HIMSELF. PLEASE LET EVERYONE KNOW THAT MYSPACE IS SAFE AGAIN! BELOW THE STATEMENT IS A COPY OF THE NEW CLAUSE:
I am very pleased to see that MySpace have changed their terms of agreement from a declaration of their rights into a declaration of our rights as artists, making it clear that, as creators, we retain ownership of our material. Having been adopted by the biggest social networking site on the block, I hope their recognition of the right of the artist to be sole exploiter of their own material now becomes an industry standard because there is much more at stake here than just the terms and conditions of a website.
In the past, songwriters and performers needed a record company to manufacture, market and distribute their work, and in exchange for that, the company expected to own the rights to exploit the recordings for as long as the material was capable of earning royalties - life of copyright in legalese which currently means 50 years.
I've always had a problem with that arrangement, arguing that the recordings I've made should provide my pension not that of some record company executive. In order to achieve this, I have held on to my rights, signing licensing deals in which ownership of the records reverts to me after a stipulated period, usually ten years. I figure that if a company cant make their money back after that time, they don't deserve to put out my records anyway.
Every few years, the reversion clause kicks in, my back catalogue returns to my ownership and I begin the licensing process all over again. Not only does this strengthen my hand in contract negotiations, it also allows me to take account of new technologies in a rapidly changing industry.
Now that the popularity of downloading has made physical manufacturing and distribution no longer necessary, the next generation of artists will not need to surrender all of their rights in order to get their music into the marketplace. It is therefore crucial that they understand, from the moment that they first post music on the internet, the importance of retaining their long term right to exploit the material that they create. This is doubly important on a networking site where many of the songs posted will be by unsigned artists. Ownership of the rights to such material is somewhat ambiguous. That's why I hope that the groundbreaking decision of MySpace to come down on the side of the artists' rights will be followed throughout the industry.
I also welcome the new wording of the terms and conditions in which MySpace clarify exactly why they require specific rights and how they intend to use them. Again, I hope more sites follow the lead of MySpace in ensuring the use of clear and transparent language in contracts. The last thing any of us wants to see is a situation in which everyone posting a song on the site has to have a lawyer sitting next to them.
I'm glad my music is available to the community again and I'm glad that MySpace chose to act on my concerns. In order that we might avoid any such confusion in future, can I suggest that MySpace notify its members of any changes in the terms and conditions whenever they take place?
Proprietary Rights in Content on MySpace.com.
MySpace.com does not claim any ownership rights in the text, files, images, photos, video, sounds, musical works, works of authorship, or any other materials (collectively, "Content") that you post to the MySpace Services. After posting your Content to the MySpace Services, you continue to retain all ownership rights in such Content, and you continue to have the right to use your Content in any way you choose. By displaying or publishing ("posting") any Content on or through the MySpace Services, you hereby grant to MySpace.com a limited license to use, modify, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce, and distribute such Content solely on and through the MySpace Services.
Without this license, MySpace.com would be unable to provide the MySpace Services. For example, without the right to modify Member Content, MySpace.com would not be able to digitally compress music files that Members submit or otherwise format Content to satisfy technical requirements, and without the right to publicly perform Member Content, MySpace.com could not allow Users to listen to music posted by Members. The license you grant to MySpace.com is non-exclusive (meaning you are free to license your Content to anyone else in addition to MySpace.com), fully-paid and royalty-free (meaning that MySpace.com is not required to pay you for the use on the MySpace Services of the Content that you post), sub licensable (so that MySpace.com is able to use its affiliates and subcontractors such as Internet content delivery networks to provide the MySpace Services), and worldwide (because the Internet and the MySpace Services are global in reach). This license will terminate at the time you remove your Content from the MySpace Services. The license does not grant MySpace.com the right to sell your Content, nor does the license grant MySpace.com the right to distribute your Content outside of the MySpace Services.