Digital revolution raises major copyright concerns

    The development of new digital technologies is transforming the deejay sector and opening up the industry to young and highly-skilled artists who have honed their talents from an early age thanks to the increasing availability of low-cost mixers, turntables and editing software

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    The development of new digital technologies is transforming the deejay sector and opening up the industry to young and highly-skilled artists who have honed their talents from an early age thanks to the increasing availability of low-cost mixers, turntables and editing software.

    While on the whole this is a positive development for the industry, the trend away from CDs and vinyl to embracing digital audio data is not.

    Many young artists and club-based DJs have come to rely solely on an extensive catalogue of MP3s for use during live performances.

     

    Not only does this compromise ultimate audio quality in a club environment, it also raises a number of significant copyright issues.

    In recent months, DJs working in countries including the UK and Australia have found themselves under the microscope from authorities, with illegal filesharing and copyright infringement top of their agenda.

    In September, the UK Royalty Collection Agency introduced a license costing £200 (around US$400) for all DJs working in the country who used MP3s regardless of whether the digital data had been copied from legitimate sources such as a purchased CD or a commercial music website. According to local news sources, only a tiny percentage of the thousands of working DJs in the UK had purchased a license at the time of press.

    In Australia, government authorities are reportedly considering introducing similar measures after it was found that more than 90% of the country's working DJs regularly flouted copyright laws pertaining to the use of MP3s during live performances.

    While the GCC is still to introduce regionally binding copyright laws, many nation-state members including the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, have their own legislation governing Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), which could ultimately spell trouble for local DJs using MP3s, should these governments choose to adopt a similar approach to these international counterparts.

    The issue of sound quality is one that has also become of increasing importance given that the rise in popularity of MP3 recordings has been mirrored by the rapid rate of development in the field of sound reinforcement technology.

    In last month's issue of S&S, leading loudspeaker designer Tony Andrews rightfully lamented the impact of MP3 audio on sound quality in club environments.

    Given that a wholesale return to old-school tech such as vinyl seems unlikely, the most obvious solution for rectifying these issues is the continued development of new digital compression technologies.

    However, while this may solve the issue of audio quality, growing concerns relating to the use of MP3s and the trend's impact on IPRs may not be so easily resolved.

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