globalEDGE Blog: gE Blog Series: Globalization of the Media Industry Part 2 - Copyright's International Problem

gE Blog Series: Globalization of the Media Industry Part 2 - Copyright's International Problem

When taking a company, product, or service internationally one has to take into consideration the variability of laws they will encounter. This tends to be quite the process, and a very complex one at that. Few may be more complex (and more of a hindrance) to business expansion than copyright law, specifically when it comes to the music industry. This makes for a wide array of complications that music empires have to deal with and has even derailed some.

The sheer intricacies of international copyright laws keep companies from entering foreign markets. Even companies who bear the size and resources to expand abroad, many times do not because it is not good economics.  This is true for media companies mainly because their business involves paying royalties to the actual creators of content. In an interview the CEO of Pandora – a streaming radio music website – Joe Kennedy stated, that the company abandoned their attempt to enter the U.K. market because the copyright laws made it unfeasible. He went on to discuss that Pandora continues to operate only in the United States because inability to work licensing in other countries or that the stated royalty charges did not make economic sense for them.

In what might be the most encompassing remark regarding international media sites Kennedy stated, “The good news is the internet is global, but the bad news is that copyright law is country by country." There is no doubt this sentiment is shared throughout the industry and their frustration levels remain high. In an attempt to make classical music widely available for all Edward W. Guo started the International Music Score Library Project, which provides free downloads to users. Herein lays another issue caused by varying copyright laws. Many publishers who own rights to some of the content put on the IMSP site are not surprisingly, put off by the availability of their content for free. Guo started a company – Project Petrucci – to take ownership of the site and work to remove content that violates copyright laws. However, this is no simple task, “We cannot know the copyright laws of 200 countries around the world,” said Guo.

From large companies such as Pandora to small operations of the International Music Score Library Project, everyone in the music industry faces almost insurmountable hurdles when dealing with differing countries and differing laws. It is hard to see any change to this in the near future as countries will almost certainly never see eye to eye on the issue of copyrights. With that being said, if the laws won’t change, maybe the business model might. 

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