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Thursday, May 26, 2005

But everyone's doing it... right?

A couple of days ago I was over at Life-of-Rubin and read with interest his take on a website hawking Jewish ringtones for cell phones.  This site (no, I'm not going to provide a link and give free traffic to a criminal enterprise!) isn't yet functioning, but it already has a front page up. 

Life-of-Rubin suggests that the Jewish Ringtones site will probably get sued, since they are unlikely to even go through the motions of securing permission to use the artist's names or music.  But I disagree.  The site owners are on pretty safe ground there.  By choosing to carry only ringtones of Jewish artists they are infringing on the rights of people who, as a group, have proven themselves to be as lazy about protecting their rights as their listening public has been aggressive about trampling them.

Anyone who knows me is aware that one of my (many) pet peeves is the rather, shall we say, casual attitude my 'religious' coreligionists have towards intellectual property rights and copyright infringement.

Walk into any Judaica store in the world and you will find bins full of kippot (yarmulkes) bearing the logos of every major sports franchise and sneaker company... Hannukiot (menoras) and dreidles (tops) painted with characters from the latest Disney or Pixar film... and other miscellaneous tchotchkes emblazoned with every conceivable proprietary image. 

The problem is that most, if not all of this stuff was created without bothering to get (i.e. pay for) rights to use the images and logos.

Whenever I have pointed this out to the store owners I have invariably gotten the old,

"Oh c'mon now... everybody does it." 

When I have tried to use terminology that should carry more weight with these guys such as 'G'nivat HaDa'at' (the term in Jewish law for stealing someone else's ideas or intellectual property), they wave me away with lame excuses such as,

"You think the Yankees really mind if some kid walks around with their logo on his kippah?  Puleeeze, I'm sure that not only are they me'ayesh (a technical term meaning to relinquish all claim to something) any money they might have seen from this kind of thing... but they probably like the exposure!"

Yeah... that makes sense.  If sales of Yankee tickets and Nike sneakers are up this year, it's because of all the free publicity they are getting on the heads of Yeshiva kids!

Getting back to the Jewish singing artists... within minutes of any album of Jewish music being released it is being copied and handed around yeshivas and seminaries throughout the major Jewish population centers.  The artists and distributors just shrug, saying "What can we do... this is the price of popularity!"

The few Radio stations that continue to broadcast this genre of music reinforce the 'anything goes' attitude towards copyrights by not paying royalties to the artists or copyright owners whose music they broadcast.  For their part, the artists wouldn't dare ask for royalties from the radio stations because that would get them blacklisted from the programs they need for exposure!

This attitude that everything and anything is in the public domain is so antithetical to Jewish law that I can't get my head around why the religious community continues to tolerate it.  I can't tell you how many times I have gotten e-mail from friends who have seen my content on other people's sites with no attribution or link.  I guess these people think the Creative Commons license over in my site's gutter is just for show!

No... I'm afraid this 'Jewish Music Ringtones' site is safe... they won't be sued.  They are counting on the implicit 'honor-among-thieves' attitude that allowed almost the entire Jewish population of Boro Park to run their computers on a single pirated copy of Windows 95 throughout the mid-to-late '90s.

Nothing has changed since then.


Posted by David Bogner on May 26, 2005 | Permalink


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I remember that when we did the first Shlock Rock album, Lenny sent letters out to all of the original artists, and the only one who replied was Chuck Berry. He was supposed to come to the recording session but never showed. Interestingly, there was a picture of Chuck in the bathroom, hanging over the toilet.

The only artist that gave him grief, ironically, was Billy Joel, Lenny's idol.

Posted by: psychotoddler | May 27, 2005 10:02:56 PM

Dear Blog Members,

I was very amused by your blog. While I appreciate your defense of artist rights and intellectual property, there is also a basic tenet in Judaism of "giving someone the benefit of the doubt." As you can see from our web-page we have listed artists who will appear and sell on our site. We have contracts in place or pending with ALL of them. In fact, our first contract we signed was with the Estate of Shlomo Carlebach. Thaat being said, we are a legitimate and kosher operation and NO ARTIST's material will be posted until we have finalized an agreement with them.

I appreciate your concern for the artists.

Andrew Lanter
Koltones Inc.

Posted by: Andrew Lanter | May 30, 2005 7:24:20 AM

there's nothing wrong if lipa is parodying the song, but like everyone is saying, just ADMIT IT!
there are dozens and dozens upon dozens of 'jewish' songs that are either samples or straight out copies of 'goyish' songs. without examining each song legally, the number one thing that all of these artists should do is atleast credit the original in some way. it's so hypocritical when they not only don't do this, but they pretend to have made it up on their own.- case in point, the 'special moments' cassette (mbd, yeedle & mendy werdyger) has a big hasro'oh/ warning signed by 3 gedolei poskim forbidding copying the casette for any reason, based on a ruling of the mishna berurah brought out by r' moshe. just to the left of this letter are the list of songs and their composers. the last and final song listed is the only one without any credit to a composer. that song? yidden. so cash another check MBD, feel proud about yourself

Posted by: YoMo | Feb 21, 2006 8:36:45 PM

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