a 2 i m

O.P.I.P. Yeah You Know – Free?

O.P.I.P. Yeah You Know – Free?

(Title inspired by A2IM Libera Awards Independent Icon winners, Naughty by Nature)

Recording artists, songwriters, musicians, publishers, and labels are under siege. Music is catnip for consumers and the use of O.P.I.P. (to paraphrase Naughty by Nature: ‘Other People’s Intellectual Property’), transforms creators into dystopic battery farms feeding the “The Matrix” Machine.

They call it “Content.” They use it as bait to get information. From our perspective, recorded music is the result of hopes, dreams, personal sacrifice, and significant investments of time and money. However, in flagrant disregard of that, we have scalable distribution systems worth exponentially more than the annual gross of all the (non-scalable) creative works they deliver. Clever as they are, these systems are worthless without creative works.

It’s a cynical business model:

  1. Co-opt the investment of creative people, publishers, and labels
  2. Divert the value generated into their coffers.

Invest ensuing profits into:

  1. Lawsuits, and legislative lobbying against creators and owners
  2. Infiltrating and influencing government and the courts through the corporate revolving door and lobbying power.
  3. PR campaigns claiming that creators are “stifling innovation” and “depriving consumers of their rights” (when they can no longer freely give up their valuable personal information in exchange for O.P.I.P.)


O.P.I.P. Yeah You Know – Free: A great business model… if you are the user rather than the used.

American recorded music inspired goodwill toward Americans and American culture and was a powerful engine for the creation of global revenues. While there were internal industry conflicts, those pale in comparison with the present plunder and destruction that starves our creative community.

The Constitutional Provision Respecting Copyright (Article I, Section 8, Clause 8) states: “The Congress shall have Power To…promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries….”

The framers understood that creative pursuits bring value to America and Americans. To uphold the framers’ intentions the vast majority (and in some cases all) of the proceeds generated cannot continue to be diverted away from creators. The creative work is the value proposition for consumers and delivery systems alike. That is as true online as it was in a Juke Joint. It is as true for terrestrial radio as for YouTube. Huge corporations earning vast profits from creative works without adequately compensating creators are not meeting the framers’ intentions. All stakeholders, especially the creators, should get their fair share of all revenues generated.  

There is an assiduous erosion of the objectives of The Constitutional Provision Respecting Copyright. We have a legion of copyright abuses and court decisions negating the rights of copyright creators and owners. Small and medium sized American businesses bear the brunt.

The siege tightens: we have the blatant misuse of safe harbor law under both the DMCA and Europe’s parallel provisions. The Lenz case (dancing baby) upended fair use. Fair use was intended as an affirmative defense but is now treated as a right. Copyright creators and owners, those people the Constitution vowed to protect, now have to tiptoe around egregious breaches of their rights in order to avoid getting sued. There was the recent free gift to services in the form of the DOJ’s 100% licensing decision. Overseen by a judge who previously represented Google, this ruling, if it stands, would alter songwriters’ creative processes should they want to retain a modicum of control over their works and revenues. Again and again we see the Copyright Royalty Boards misinterpreting what is going on in the marketplace and establishing below-market rates. And there is more…

Our politicians talk about jobs and revenue, made in America, and small businesses as drivers of growth. Here you have it: American music can’t be outsourced, is constantly reinventing itself, is a poster child for free market competition, creates social mobility, and presents a friendly face for the U.S. in an increasingly tense world. Could we please break the siege, end usurpation of O.P.I.P., and defend our creative communities?

You can download the Cynical Business Model Infographic here


Richard James Burgess


New York August 29, 2016

You can hear more from Richard on these issues in his interview with Kill Rock Stars president Portia Sabin on her podcast and radio show, The Future of What here.

The Future of What is a weekly podcast and radio program about music and the recording industry hosted by Kill Rock Stars president Portia Sabin. Each week, the show explores a topic of interest to musicians, music industry professionals, and regular people alike by discussing important questions with great people who work every day to help artists succeed (largely behind the scenes). 

A huge thanks to Hypebot for releasing this OpEd!

About A2IM:
A2IM is a 501(c)(6) not-for-profit trade organization headquartered in New York City that exists to support and strengthen the independent recorded music sector. Membership currently includes a broad coalition of more than 700 Independently-owned American music labels. A2IM represents these independently owned small and medium-sized enterprises’ (SMEs) interests in the marketplace, in the media, on Capitol Hill, and as part of the global music community. In doing so, it supports a key segment of America’s creative class that represents America’s diverse musical cultural heritage. Billboard Magazine identified the Independent music label sector as 37.32 percent of the music industry’s U.S. recorded music sales market in 2016 based on copyright ownership, making Independent labels collectively the largest music industry sector.

Learn more about A2IM here.
For information about how to join our community, see here.