Saturday, October 31, 2009

People's Association Songwriting Competition and Copyright Thuggery

I was so excited to hear from my wife that there would be a songwriting competition organised by the People's Association.

But became absolutely gutted and incensed upon reading their terms and conditions. (And they probably have added more stipulations in the weeks after this blog post)

It states that participants will relinquish ALL the rights to their song and lyrics to the People's Association (PA) in the event they win a prize (there are 11 prizes to be won any way). It is also obvious that they had consulted a decent intellectual property lawyer, either that, or they do the normal thing and copy and paste the rules and regulations taken from other songwriting competitions. Talk about the ironies of copyright terms and conditions if that were to be true.

All the rights! Distribution, reproduction, performance and even sales. They won't attribute the song to you in the future. Worse, is if they attempt to capitalise on the winning songs.

The prizes range from $300 to $5000. I think that is severe underpayment for full rights to a song. If it is for partial rights to the song, for reuse without commercial intent on the part of the PA, I feel that is reasonable enough.

This is absolutely ridiculous. I worry for would-be participants who do not understand the severity and implications of the terms and conditions of the contest, or understand the implications of relinquishing all your rights to your own musical creation. They should know what they are getting themselves into, and that includes no attribution/credits either, should they win. (in a check with an intellectual property lawyer, I found out that the second owner of the rights must still attribute the creation to the original creator, so I might be wrong here.)

You do it because you have a sense of ownership. It is further an insult to your creation (song) if you "sold" it for a pittance of a cash prize. If the PA has all copyright and all related intellectual property rights to your song, they can choose not to credit you, because attribution right is part of copyright. (Copyright is a bundle of rights, as you should know by now.)

In my opinion, judging from the terms and conditions, I think the contest organisers are bullies that either do not recognise the value of artistic work, or are smart enough to leverage on copyright laws for its advantage and whatever commercial intent it may have. A songwriter deserves to have rights to his own creation and deserves royalties too.

This is copyright thuggery. Of course, the government follows the private sector. You have and ODEX, using intellectual property (copyright) laws for their commercial benefit. The idea of copyright is to protect the creator, and not for businesses to use as a revenue-generating part of their business model. Unethical scums.

I had a strong interest in participating in the People's Association Songwriting Competition, but think that it is contrary to my idea of artistic integrity.

Furthermore, the competition's terms and conditions is anti-music. Shouldn't you allow people to keep their own creations? The remuneration (i.e. prizes) is pittance, and not worthy of a relinquishing of all rights. Musicians and songwriters will know that.

It is perplexing and preposterous that a statutory board (government organisation) is interested in owning - exclusively - the creative and emotional labour of people! On the one hand, it aims to promote peace, harmony and togetherness among Singaporeans; but on the other hand, they do so by exploiting people.

Why would a stat board bother about owning full rights to someone else's song? They probably want to save up on paying royalties and licenses. And if they exclusively own the song, they could profit from royalties themselves. But isn't the PA about fostering community togetherness? I find it unjustifiable they adopt this "peripheral competency" of owning rights to a bunch of songs.

In Singapore, the government has taken significant measures to have a sound intellectual property regime, but that does not mean its minion organisations can exploit people and their creations like that. Attitudes and behaviours like these impede creativity, because you take ownership away by cleanly divorcing individuals and their works. Of course, welcome to Singapore, where "rights" is not an entitlement to any human being, but the state.

Hey, I believe in community and harmony too. But that doesn't mean I should consent to giving up all the rights to my own creations. People need to have a sense of ownership to their own things first before they can even have the hint of a sense of ownership to a community.

I have sent an email enquiry to the organisers. Wonder what they have to say.

I'm so disappointed. Maybe I should write a song about this. (And I did, and I've submitted it for competition.)

1 comment:

Chad said...

Wow. It is a great reminder that us songwriters need to really review what we are getting ourselves into.