Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Oh, those crazy Wonks

Last week, Edwonk of the Education Wonks gave me the heads up on a story out of England regarding Pink Floyd. Since I'm a super-huge PF fan, it piqued my interest.

Pink Floyd pupils sue for royalties

A group of former pupils at a London comprehensive school are poised to win thousands of pounds in unpaid royalties for singing on Pink Floyd's classic Another Brick In The Wall 25 years ago.

The pupils from the 1979 fourthform music class at Islington Green School secretly recorded vocals after their teacher was approached by the band's management.

Now the 23 ex-pupils are suing for overdue session musician royalties, taking advantage of the Copyright Act 1997 to claim a percentage of the money from broadcasts.

After reading the entire article, I had a number of questions. Does Pink Floyd (or the surviving band members) need to pay anything? What exactly qualifies a person as a "session musician"? Anyone who is a fan of Pink Floyd knows that used samples, audio clips, weird sound bites, and a whole host of animate and inanimate objects on their albums. Should the guy who lent them the alarm clocks for "Time" be given a slice of pie too? And what about the $1000 (probably pounds, not dollars, ed.)cheque that the school received after the recording? If that was the terms agreed to, how come this is an issue twenty five years later? Surely there is a statute of limitations on this? Are this "kids" just merely trying to take advantage of circumstance, in a get-rich-quick scheme?

I did a bit more digging, and as it turns out, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation actually sheds some more light on the subject (colour me shocked!):

strong>The 23 ex-pupils, who were teenagers at the time the song was recorded, are not suing the band; instead, they are taking advantage of a royalty fund established by a new copyright law in 1997.

Broadcasters pay into the fund, and under the legislation the children qualify as session musicians. They stand to gain the equivalent of a few hundred dollars each.

Their claim has been hard to establish because the recording session was done in secret. The song's lyrics were considered scandalous at the time.

Does PF have to ante up some hard dough? Nope. Are these "kids" going to get rich because of this? Not unless you consider a couple hundred bucks as being rich. Is this a guaranteed thing? Nope, doesn't seem like it.

What worries me, is that if they are awarded the money, it could set a pretty crazy precedent. British broadcasters may need to put a lot more into their royalty fund, because "artists" and "session musicians" will be taking a lot out of it.

I searched online to find an archive of the Copyright Act of 1996. There doesn't seem to be one that is easy to find, but apparently a copy can be purchased through HMSO

Unfortunately, I'm too cheap to shell out the money to buy it, and see what it really says. Certainly there must be some guards in it against superfluous and excessive claims. Not to mention, do all broadcasters pay equal amounts, or it a per pound/per song basis?

Inquiring minds would like to know what lies outside the wall:

All alone, or in twos
The ones who really love you
Walk up and down outside the wall
Some hand in hand
Some gathering together in bands
The bleeding hearts and the artists
Make their stand
And when they've given you their all
Some stagger and fall after all it's not easy
banging your heart against some mad buggers