This morning I tried to visit a site called OLGA (on-line guitar archive), a place where I had often gone in past years to check out chord progressions for pop/rock tunes. Many guitarists had worked out tunes as best they could, then posted them at this site. Over the years, the contributions to the site had been inconsistent on OLGA. Sometimes many of the chords were incorrect, but they served to get you started to figure the rest out. Some of the others progressions were truly excellent.
OLGA served as a cyber-place for thousands of guitarists to exchange chord arrangements for songs. I’ve played guitar for many years, and this is exactly what guitarists do in person. It is the best way to learn tunes—we exchange scribbled out chord progressions.
But we won’t do this any more on OLGA. You see, the owners of the site received a “take down letter,” and that was the end of OLGA. You can read the letter here. What are the damages, if one is taken to court? Up to $30,000. According to this letter, these guitarists who were merely exchanging chord arrangements were a threat to the livelihood of professional musicians who created the songs. Never mind that all of those professionals got to be professionals by trading chord progressions.
Once again, the little person has been knocked around by big corporations. I say this because people trying to learn how to strum tunes on their guitars don’t have the money to pay off politicians in order to have an exception carved for their own benefit.
What if you DO have millions to spend (i.e., Disney)? There’s almost no limit to what money can buy. If you are a corporation, you likely own lots of the intellectual property. After all, you’ve squeezed it out of your employees over the years. And whenever you publish a tune or a photo or movie, you now have the right to monopolize it for the shorter of 95 years from publication, or 120 years from creation. That’s the benefit of the 1998 “Mickey Mouse Protection Act.”
You might be wondering how this period got to be so incredibly long. You wouldn’t be the first. After all, 50 years ago, here is what was deemed fair: “28 years, plus the work could be renewed for 47 years, now extended by 20 years for a total renewal of 67 years.
What is distressing to me is that there is no rational balance between the “rights” of corporate intellectual property owners and the right of society to freely (eventually) enjoy the cultural artifacts were made popular by the people, after all.
Now we know that guitar players trading chord progressions are a menace to society! Don’t think about it too much, though, or you’ll realize that all prominent guitarists have traded chord progressions. But now we know that this important part of educating future guitarists is highly illegal. The horror . . .
In the meantime, I’ll be figuring out the chords to tunes more slowly, on my own.