Copyrights in Chopin’s future

Science-fiction story about Frédéric Chopin, who wakes up today and struggles with something new for him – copyrights and music industry. It’s an absurd for him (and for us, I bet!), but let’s face it – we live in such absurd!

This work takes part in the Future of Copyright Contest: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/future-of-copyright-contest-2-0

Authors:

  • Krzysztof Blachnicki – original text and picture remix
  • Wojciech Pędzich – translation

Licensing:

This work is released on CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

Polish version: Przyszłość praw autorskich Chopina

My first life and awakening

I do not wish to describe my first life. I left it behind and started another one. I died in Paris, in 1849. It seemed to me that I would never see this world again. How mistaken I was!

To celebrate Anno Domini 2015, a plebiscite was organised among the nations of this world. Each citizen was to answer the question on which compatriot to awaken from their eternal sleep. Only one person could be brought back, because the process was very costly – it could not be done off-handedly. Marie Curie was chosen, while I climbed only to the miserable, second place. However, blind fate decided that in France the top place was held by two people with the same number of votes. A diplomatic fight broke out, attempting to resolve the nationality issue. TB blast them all!

France and Poland eventually came to terms and decided they would share the costs of awakening us both. Maria was really content, but upon seeing how her advancements were put to use she only cried out: “La merde, I am getting back to bed until you learn what peace actually is!” I decided to hang around, though.

Copyrights and the first contract

As it was later explained to me, something called “copyrights” emerged in the meantime. It meant that only I could make profit from the music I wrote. Well, at least that was what it seemed to me. I was flabbergasted when a few gentlemen wearing chic clothes approached me and told me that these “copyrights” expired 70 years after the author died, so anyone was free to use my music for free. The heck…? When I was alive the first time around, anyone could play my music, it was all about sharing the artistic wealth of my nation! They also told me that since I was awakened and brought back amongst the living, these copyrights belonged back to me, but since they were professionals, they would handle all this thingamajig. I, in turn, would have money to burn and would be able to create music as before. Just like in the old days, it was just that I would have the “dough” (cool word, by the way!) to awaken George Sand! I signed some papers – exotic lingo, weird sentences. It turned out I was to record four albums for them, 45 minutes each.

First album

Chopin's second album - Bubblegum Requiem
Chopin’s second album – Bubblegum Requiem
Original image: P. Schick, 1873 (public domain)
Remix: Krzysztof Blachnicki, 2013 (CC-BY-SA 3.0
)

My record company asked me to write something new. What the heck – even my old instrument was still there! I sat down and recorded the whole 90 minutes of soothing sounds. I played the material to my employees. They asked me to cut it down to a quarter of an hour. But how was I supposed to do just that?! I finally managed to surgeon it down to 70 minutes, In the end, they grumbled that they would push it through as a major resurrection release, but I’d better watch myself the next time. Well, then – how is it these days, are people ready to pay for less music than have more of it for free, like in the old days? The guys from the company also asked me to put on blue clothes with a large orange top hat and sing some stuff – in English of all things! I did not even knew what I was singing, but they said there was nothing wrong with what it was, so I went like: “oh yeah babe, I’m getting hot”, “my music makes your body tremble in a samba rhythm”, or “I won’t cough when I kiss you”. I don’t know how it was possible, but I suddenly had 15 records instead of the one I prepared. 10 were “singles”, 4 were “EPs” and only one was the full release. So only the last one counted. By my artistic soul, I will never understand maths!

A week after the premiere, the big bosses bought themselves some luxury automobiles, a new condo and they were literally rolling in gold. I was said they won it all at the lottery while my record sold poorly. I was paid five grand. I needed a billion to awaken Sand – where were all these riches, then? I was told that if I wanted to make more “dough” I would need to play concerts, swing my hips more and stop coughing blood over the audience.

Second record

The big shots told me that we were about to record the second album. I already sat down at the piano when I was told I did not need to do this. Well then… what is it like, what do we sell to people? “Greatest hits”, I heard. Sure, that made my day, there was plenty to choose from in my portfolio. It turned out they mixed my first release, added the contents of the “singles” and that was that. Five months after the premiere they told me to pay them 10 thousand zlotys, because I did not try hard enough. They blamed it all on some “pirates”. They stole my music for free, the bandits, they probably drank up the whole thing with rum!

Third record and the break-up

I was suggested to get back to the roots when I made my third album. Oh, joy, joy, joy! I sat down monumentally at the piano and started to play, but their shouts stopped me dead cold. I was given a ready-printed music sheet and told to play this… whatever it was. It was… slander, pure and simple! This could not be defined as music, by any dictionary! That is how I decided I did not want to record for that bunch any more. I was in debt and needed a better job, and fast. After I quit I learned that I was to pay a million zlotys for what I’ve committed.

Depression and the return of the riches

I fell into the depths of depression. Pirates have ruined my life, even the professionals were not able to help me! I began to play melodies that reflected the way I felt. Just like in the old days. I uploaded my music on the Internet. For free, for nothing, for zilch. I wanted to show the horrible masters of the seas how I felt. A day later I got a phone call from the men who ran the website where I published my music. They ecstatically stammered and blubbered about a million dollars. I answered that the money they already got was the last „dough” they would see from me and that they would be better off burying me again. Finally they got someone more under control on the telephone and I heard “first day online and you have created a smash hit already! We collected a total of million dollars from our users!” That gave me one heck of a surprise. Pirates? But they steal, do they not? And why would they pay me? A courteous gentleman explained that the fairy tales of stealing pirates were but a cheat on the side of the record companies so that they could profit from my music. Actually, nowadays it is possible to make money making good music, while artists who just create sounds instead of real music blame it all on piracy.

Brave new (third) life

I was finally able to publish whatever I wanted, however much I wanted, and if I did not work hard enough, I made less “dough”. One fine day, it really drove me up the wall to hear my piece of music recorded with some hellish hammering noises and squeals of a sow giving birth to a litter of piglets in the background. What now, this „creator” would make money out of my genius from now on? My anger was quick to pass. I am Frederic Chopin, a wise man, but not omniscient. I asked a friend who works for the company that hosts my music (I do not pay them a dime, but they make money anyway – pure magic!) what I was supposed to do. He told me to do nothing, but wait instead, so I waited. And…? It turned out that the countryside p-sow-do hammerhead of a musician earned me some new listeners! Afterwards, someone recorded a cover of my composition and made a small fortune. Could I be mad at this? He did things better than I would have thought, he earned his share. I can also remix someone else’s work and if the audience likes it – I will make money out of it.

Time passed. After four years during which I deservingly earned every penny, I collected a billion zlotys. I paid to have George Sand awakened. Boy, are we happy!

I hope that more people will have their own opinions instead of listening to the hissing of those snakes, sucking money out of artists to pay off their new automobiles. Wake up, folks, a good musician will earn his daily bread even if he decides to let his music go for free, for all to share. A poor man will be able to listen to real music, while a wealthy man will make the artist’s effort worthwhile. Isn’t it all about just that? Each may benefit, except the music companies which become redundant, so they turn to lies in order to keep themselves afloat.

I listened to a lot of modern concerts, but I cannot make head or tail of what is going on there. In turn, I learned a lot of modern lingo. So, chill out homies, if ya spin yo’ heads da right way, you’ll get the hang of wha’s cool for the artistes and fo’ y’selves!

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