Friday, October 1, 2010

Truth and Justice - Sometimes

Although I should really be spending all my time preparing for the concerts this weekend, I've been forced into appearing as a TV talking head several times in the matter of Trisdee's discoveries about the CDs of K Bundit.

The strangest discovery I have made is that many people in this country are unaware that perfomers even have any rights over the their own performances.  In fact the Director General of the Department of Intellectual Property, who presumably is the supreme authority of our government for protecting these rights, appeared not to know that they existed when she called into Mango TV to discuss the issue two days ago.

One of the most appalling things I've ever experienced is when this woman began lecturing myself and Sukie Clapp on the fact that Mozart was dead and we could do whatever we wanted with his music, completely missing the point that if I make a recording of a Mozart Symphony, Sukie Clapp can't just use *my* recording without my permission ... let alone claim that he conducted it.  Same goes for if I were to use Sukie's recording of a third party's pop song.  There are two different levels: the UNDERLYING rights, which might well have expired, and then the rights to an individual interpretation of a particular work.

These are rights which are negotiated millions of times every year by performing artists all over the world and are the entire basis for how performing artists put food on the table. There is absolutely no controversy about the existence of these rights.  That's why musicians get paid at all ... we BUY their performances.

Now, it is a sad thing that the person who is paid by our government and thus by the taxes of all these artists who get their money from the sale of these rights ... to PROTECT our rights ... is telling us we don't have these rights.  The money from these rights has a role to play in her monthly paycheck!

Alas, this is not so unusual in the bureaucracy of Thailand ... or even in higher levels of government.  Do you remember, years ago, when Youtube was abruptly banned because an offensive video that denigrated the institutions of this country?  Of course, the video was shocking to the sensibilities of Thai people, but a single video can easily be blocked without affecting the entirety of Youtube.  It is the equivalent of finding one instance of mail fraud, then banning the postal service.

Of course, any computer literate ten-year-old could have instructed our government in how to seamlessly block one offensive video, but it soon transpired that the then Minister of Communications didn't realize what a mess this was because, as he confessed himself, he "didn't really use the internet." A well intentioned attempt to "protect the public" ended up as a grave embarrassment for the country.  In addition, millions of innocent users had their normal internet usage disrupted, including many users whose youtube postings were *helping* the country's image.

Nevertheless, incompetently run and creaky though our bureaucracy is, it probably means well.  For instance, I was able to make a full report about this director-general's odd lapses of knowledge to her boss, the minister of commerce, and to make sure it actually ended up on his desk and was acknowledged.  The intentions are there even if the execution could use work.

And of course, things could be worse.  When I was in Beijing for the Opera Summit earlier this year, I was completely cut off from the known universe because all my communications tools that I normally use, such as youtube, facebook, twitter, and blogger, were blocked.  In moments such as these, I still count my blessings.

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