I sing in a choir, and it is great fun. I also play a few instruments, sometimes in public, and I am always buying new music to practise, learn develop and sometimes perform. So I am happy to contribute to the composer/ arranger/ publishers' profits because without them I wouldn't have so much too play or sing. But is there is one thing that gets my goat every time that I see it, it is the brash assertion across many pieces that I buy nowadays that says "It is illegal to photocopy music".
Which is bunkum. There is no law in the land that says it is illegal to photocopy music per se, any more than it is illegal to photocopy text or pictures. What is illegal is to breach the copyright on a copyright protected work, but a quick Google shows that there are plenty of sites offering copyright free scores, which of course you are perfectly entitled to photocopy.
Indeed, if I were to transcribe a version of an old tune such as Greensleeves, I would be reasonably confident that there were no copyright issues, and without going into the minutiae of the Berne Convention, most countries seem to allow me to copy the original publication of music free from copyright 50 or 70 years after the composer's death.
The reason I mention this is that I came across a different version of the same thing from a similar source. A long-standing acquaintance, a professional film editor, is a member of BAFTA. This means that he receives a DVD for each of the more than one hundred films that have been nominated for a BAFTA award. Some of these have been released earlier this year, while others (for example, Spielberg's War Horse) have not been released here. Naturally the distributors who send out these films are very careful and they "watermark" the disks and send out strict notices that they are provided solely for the purposes of evaluating the films for a BAFTA award.
Fair enough, but the blurb on each DVD ends with the threat "Any unauthorised use will be prosecuted."
It will? Under which statute? Sure enough, if the recipient chucks the DVD into a duplicating machine and sends the copies to a Far Eastern wholesaler, then they deserve to get done, but what about every other "unauthorised use"? There is only one authorised use, so any other use such as letting friends see the film, using the silver discs as a bird scarer or kitchen tool for flipping burgers or scraping pans is an unauthorised use, but I don't think any of them amounts to a crime that can be prosecuted under our existing laws. There might be a breach of contract, a civil case for whatever, but criminal prosecution? I think not.
OK, this might sound like pettyfogging, but it exemplifies the attitude from many "progressives" that starting with the position that (a) is wrong, therefore we outlaw (b) and say that doing (c) will be prosecuted. A more reserved attitude would say that in order to prevent abuse of (a) we need to create some statutes to interdict those acts and only those things specifically made illegal by the legislation are illegal. Which doesn't quite have the same impact, but at least it wouldn't get my goat.
But we see exactly the same behaviour from the likes of UKUncut and OccupyLSX: (a) is wrong, (b) is a close proxy for the people/person doing (a), so I am quite justified in harrassing (b).
For example, in the case of OccupyLSX, the "poor" (whoever they may be) will suffer under the "cuts" (even though spending is actually increasing and the only cuts are cuts in proijected spending increases), and the problems were all caused by "The City" (not just a part of it), and the London Stock Exchange is core part of the city, so the protesters are quite justified to defecate on the steps of St Pauls. OK, the last logical step defeats me at the moment, but to a radical luvvie they are all part of the same establishment cabal (allegedly) so that is all right.
Is it too much to ask that in 2012, the media will actually try to deconstruct these arguments to show that they are held together by little more than blind prejudice? Yes, it probably is.