Music News

Professor Adrian Sterling: Who Owns Copyright in Space!

Photograph of the blog post author, Mary Woodcock

Mary Woodcock


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Music Gateway was at the PPL AGM recently where guest speaker Professor Adrian Sterling gave a compelling speech, which we recapped in a PPL AGM blog. We wanted to ask him more questions based on his perspective on the future of music and copyright and get more of an insight from a professional within the industry.

1. Why should we make sure we have copyright for our works?

To ensure that the author’s authorship is recognised and control any unauthorised use or exploitation of the works.

2. What’s the best way of protecting your copyright?

Where work is used or available to the public to any degree beyond individual effective control:

(1) Through a managing agent, and

(2) Through membership of relevant collecting societies.

3. What is the best way of monetising your copyright?

(1) Through contracts with users of the material

(2) Through membership of the relevant collecting societies.

4. What has been the best improvement in copyright law that you have seen in your career so far?

In the sixty years in which I have worked in national, regional and international copyright law I have seen an immense increase in worldwide recognition of the copyright of authors and the related rights of performers, record producers and broadcasters, in particular through the following international instruments (the adopting Diplomatic Conferences of which I attended):

  • Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Phonogram Producers and Broadcasting Organisations, 1961,
  • Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (Stockholm 1967, Paris 1971)
  • Phonograms Convention 1971WIPO Copyright Treaty 1996 and WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty 1996 (the two 1996 Treaties recognised rights of authorising internet transmission of authors works, performances and sound recordings), and
  • Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances, 2012.

There has also been the TRIPS Agreement 1994 recognising copyright and related rights and binding most countries of the world, and application of the Berne Convention in the United States, Russia and China as well as most other countries.

6. So who does own copyright in space?

Hundreds and possibly thousands of human beings are likely to voyage to and inhabit regions in Space in the coming years.  At present no copyright or related rights law applies in Space, for instance on the surface of the Moon.

So a website could be set up there, transmitting copyright works to the public on Earth, without the necessity of authorisation from or payment to the copyright or related rights owners.  A Space Copyright Treaty is needed.  See J.A.L. Sterling “Space Copyright Law:  the New Dimension” available online, search “Space Copyright Law”.

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