Sunday, 9 June 2013

Summer Arrives

My immediate reaction to the suggestion I should drive over to meet my wife and daughter in Cambridge after work on a Friday afternoon was, I'll admit, less than enthuiastic. The thought of sitting in a hot car in that city's notorious traffic during Friday rush hour did not fill me with pleasure. But when it was suggested we meet in the Orchard Tea Garden in Grantchester I changed my mind. I could clear off early and drive round the outside of Cambridge. In the event, it took about half an hour. I was early for my family who were walking the "Grantchester Grind" from the middle of town. So I sat under a tree in a deck chair, sipping Earl Grey tea, watching the world go by. I happened to have my video camera with me so I took a few short clips, trying to capture the delights of the place on a sunny afternoon in early June.
When we got home I had a quick look at the footage and decided to chuck the clips into Movie Maker and upload the movie to share with friends. Inevitably a collage like this lacks continuity so I decided to search for a piece of copyright- free music with the right atmosphere. I turned to SoundCloud where I searched for "instrumental, ambient, peaceful" which led me to the piece below: 
It was exactly what I needed. It's a pretty, noodly, inconsequential piece with a summery open-air feel. Unfortunately it seems other people liked it too and Tom Coseart's account has reached it's download limit. So I carried on searching but nothing quite captured the mood so well. I went to bed slightly disgruntled but humming the earworm hook.
I decided to see if I could find out a bit more about it. It turns out that it's a piece by a South Korean pianist called Yiruma whose music, it seems, is  famous and popular (especially at weddings). Now I'm aware that admitting I've never heard of him could make me sound a little like the judge in the urban myth asking "...and who are The Beatles" ("I believe they are a popular beat combo, m'lud."). But I've never heard of him and, possibly, neither have you (remember that). Unfortunately the SoundCloud version seemed to be the only uncopyrighted version. Now I could  have ripped the music from the official version on Vimeo using Zamzar or one of the other online tools that make this process really easy. But I dutifully paid my 89p and downloaded it.
In fact, I actually prefer the simpler SoundCloud version (heresy!) since Yiruma's performance seems to me to be weighted with rather more Consequence than the composition will bear...
Now should I go ahead and upload a video to YouTube knowing the music is copyright? It's illegal and very naughty.
Or is it? Yes it is, strictly speaking, illegal ; even if lots of people do it - there are plenty of music tracks on Youtube with one image of the artist as the sole visual component. My intention is not to distribute someone else's music for free, just to spread a little pleasure with my video of which the music is one component. The video is a collaboration - though admittedly one-sided. I seems to me the music in this context is an objet-trouve. I'm selecting the piece to create a mood with the video. 
Morally I think it's wrong to take something without giving credit, but I haven't. It would be wrong too if I were to profit from it financially, but I won't. Were the Orchard Tea Rooms to use it as an advert (though judging by the queues yesterday they don't really need to) and they offered to slip me a few quid for use of my video, I'd feel duty bound to seek official permission.  It's highly unlikely anyone would try to rip the soundtrack from my video to get the music when it's easy and aurally cleaner to use the official video which features the complete piece.  So much for the defence. Now for the attack. I'm making a considerable contribution to advertising Yiruma's work (had you heard of him?). I'm using music I've paid for and I know I wouldn't have bought otherwise.
I reckon I've done my moral duty by the artist here, but a record company has spent money on studio time, production and promotion and deserve some financial recognition of this. But how much does my little video affect that income and should they prosecute someone doing part of their job for free?
Meanwhile I'll be directing my students to sites like Soundcloud, CCmixter, Jamendo and Incompetech to download music for their productions and discussing the reasons why they should do this. Using copyright music is just too complicated an issue to legislate for in school.
Enjoy the video - I'm not sure I can now...