Copyright is an issue effecting everyone, but where I see most issues in copyright infringement is the music industry. Music is about creativity, and new ideas, but where is the boundary between fair use of another artist’s ideas, and copying their work as your own?

There are thousands of famous cases of artists accusing other artists of stealing their work. Most people know about Vanilla Ice vs. David Bowie, but do they know Johnny Cash, and thousands of others have been accused of “stealing” music?

The ideas behind this are fairly insane. I mean, if we are going to accuse Vanilla Ice of stealing a sound from in a song, couldn’t we also accuse every artist today of stealing Mozart’s ideas about how to use music to influence moods? Could we accuse Mozart of stealing these ideas from the ancient cavemen who first hit things with sticks to incite passionate hunting? Basically, you’d have to sue anyone who made “original” music from the dawn of time to successfully do it!

I really want to delve more into the ideas of “covers” vs. “fair use of copyrighted materials.”  After Michael Jackson died, there was an entire CD of “covers” released. Bands, artists, and thousands of YouTube users did covers in his honor, but were they using his work fairly? Could his family sue because they are using his songs for profit? Well, the CD was released by his record label, or company, or whatever, and done with permission. The issue lies in that band, or artist going on and doing that song live. Do they have to pay to use it? Or now that they have done that song, and made it their own, they own their version? If the artist says “Hey, this is Michael Jackson’s work” is it okay for them to continue using it? It’s all about boundaries, but where is the line drawn?

If you search YouTube.com for “michael jackson cover” there are about 82,000 hits. That’s 82,000 (assuming that all are actual videos of covers of Michael’s songs) cases for copyright infringement. But if these users altered the song, or made them into one song, is it really a legal matter? They changed the original material, so it now is their work, right?

These guys are great, but couldn’t Jackson’s family say they stole his material, and sue them for every penny they own? Or do they really care? Now that he’s passed, isn’t this a way to keep him in the minds of the public, and therefore buy his materials?

This, is just one artist’s issues, I am not even delving into the idea that Lady Gaga’s actions are identical to Madonna’s during the 80’s and 90’s. Or the idea that Usher, and Bruno Mars are claiming to be the new generation’s Michael Jackson, because then I would have to ask if you can copyright a personality (can you?)

In our world, this is one issue that just does not make sense. You can copyright all you want, but if someone takes your materials, and alters it a bit, it’s theirs now. So, is there really a point in copyright laws? Isn’t copying someone the highest form of flattery? Wait, does that phrase have a copyright on it? I’m confused, and I’m fairly certain that most others are too.

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