How Copyright Law Is Hurting Culture

Jimi Hendrix Biopic Opens, Without Hendrix Music, Thanks To Copyright

As you may have heard, there’s a new movie opening today about a transformative year in Jimi Hendrix’s life, called Jimi: All Is By My Side. The story sounds pretty interesting, but there’s one big element that’s missing: Jimi Hendrix’s original music. As we noted two years ago, the Jimi Hendrix Estate denied any and all attempts to license his music unless they could have some control over the production (which the producers felt was out of order), meaning that the movie is, in fact, lacking any original Hendrix music. Instead, the only thing you’ll see Hendrix performing if you watch the movie, is cover songs of other bands, which the movie’s producers were able to license.I’m just going to repeat what I said two years ago, because it still applies: This is, in many ways, ridiculous. Part of the point of recording and retelling our cultural heritage is the use of the actual music that made it happen. Even the Hendrix estate finds the moviemakers’ position confusing (though, it doesn’t indicate if it would license the songs without creative say in the flick). Part of the problem is the ridiculous setup of music licensing today. You can do a cover song with compulsory licenses (i.e., without permission), but that’s only for audio. Doing video gets you into sync licenses and other issues that require permission. And this is what you get in a society that locks up culture: a movie about Jimi Hendrix that features exactly none of his original music.

This is how we lose out on culture. Culture thrives by sharing it, building on it, doing new things with it not by locking it up and demanding permission or control for everything. Indeed, looking over the reviews of the movie, many are specifically calling out the lack of Hendrix’s music as a big part of the problem with the movie. How can you tell the story of an iconic rock star without his music? The music and the star go hand in hand, but you can’t have that here. Thanks to copyright.