J.S. Bach

J.S. Bach

J.S. Bach died in 1750, which means that his music is in the public domain.

You can own the rights to a recorded performance but not the actual music.

Sony knows that now.

But it took a fight by musician James Rhodes to convince the mega-corporation.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation said Rhodes recorded 47 seconds of Bach’s First Partita, one of a set of six harpsichord suites Bach wrote in the 1720s.

He posted it on Facebook and Sony issued a takedown demand insisting that it owned Bach’s work.

It even refused to recognize Rhodes’ rights when he pointed out that Bach had been deceased for some time already, and it was a recording of his own performance.

But then Rhodes emailed the heads of Sony Classical and Sony’s public relations, and eventually the company relented.

EFF said it could have been a “copyright bot,” an algorithm, that caused the problem. The algorithm recognized the notes were Bach’s and automatically claimed the copyright because Sony likely has a copyrighted recording of someone else playing the piece.

“How many more ways do we need to say that copyright bots and filters don’t work?” the group asked. “That mandating them, as the European Union is poised to do, is dangerous and shortsighted? We hear about these misfires roughly the same way they get resolved: because they generate enough noise. How many more lead to a creator’s work being taken down with no recourse?”

WND reported this week the European Parliament is proposing a law requiring that copyright bots review all uploads to the web.

Critics have described it as an internet “extinction-level” event.

They have explained it would require expenditures that only the few largest companies in the world could manage, and would eliminate startups and small companies.

Techcrunch pointed out Julia Reda of the Greens/EFA group said it will make illegal “perfectly legal content like parodies and memes.”

“Today’s decision is a severe blow to the free and open internet,” she said. “By endorsing new legal and technical limits on what we can post and share online, the European Parliament is putting corporate profits over freedom of speech and abandoning long-standing principles that made the internet what it is today.”

The plan still needs approval from the European Commission and parliament members.

EFF explained: “Here’s the thing about different people playing the same piece of music: sometimes, they’re going to sound similar. And when music is by a composer who died 268 years ago, putting his music in the public domain, a bunch of people might record it and some of them might put it online. In this situation, a combination of copyright bots and corporate intransigence led to a Kafkaesque attack on music.”

The takedown case by Sony, the group said, “is stupid but not unusually stupid in the world of takedowns.”

“While we don’t know for sure what Sony’s process is, we can guess that a copyright bot, or a human acting just as mechanically, was at the center of this mess. A human doing actual analysis would have looked at a video of a man playing a piece of music older than American copyright law and determined that it was not something they owned.”

ARSTechnica commented on Sony’s claim to own the music.

“As far as we know, Sony hasn’t commented publicly on the dispute or explained why it continued to claim Rhodes’ music.”

But its actions were criticized in some 2,000 social media statements.

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