Krystian Zimerman Will Have Bigger Things To Worry About

Last week’s post about the uproar surrounding pianist Krystian Zimerman’s decision to cut a recital short because he spotted a patron allegedly recording the performance with a Smartphone generated some terrific feedback from readers. In particular, readers focused on issues surrounding copyright infringement and patron interaction.

First up, was a comment from reader Rochelle Skolnick who observed that the coverage surrounding the topic was missing copyright related points.

I admit that I have not followed the coverage of this issue very closely but what strikes me about the coverage I have seen is that it does not seem to acknowledge that copyright laws play a central role. We have gotten used to the idea that illegal downloads of music and film from file-sharing sites are just that–illegal. But it is also true that anyone who records a performance without the permission of the performer is simply stealing intellectual property. Such a recording also implicates the rights of the entity (usually composer or publisher) that holds copyright in the music that is being performed. While they may only be complying with artist contracts requiring them to do so (although I suspect their conduct may also have something to do with complying with the terms of the blanket licenses they purchase from ASCAP, BMI and/or SESAC), those venues that strictly enforce bans on recording by patrons are also discouraging the violation of copyright laws within their precincts.

Next was a comment from reader Terence Hines who asserted patrons using Smartphones for any reason during a concert were distracting to other patrons.

This isn’t just a question of respect for the law, the artist, and the venue. What about audience members who just want to sit there and listen to the music without being distracted by some bozo with a smartphone? This ain’t a nightclub, folks. Turn off your frigging phone.

Both comments bring up valid points but they also confine the parameters of the discussion to predominant technology. But what happens when Google Glass (and what will almost certainly be a flood of copy-cat products) hits the market in force?

GGsIf you aren’t already familiar with Google Glass, it is basically a wearable computer with a head mounted display. It currently functions very much like a smartphone in that it can record photos, video, and sound that can be synced with a user’s cloud based account but it is worn like a pair of eyeglasses and can be controlled via a variety of verbal and tactile interfaces.

It is all but certain that live streaming of an event from something like a Google Glass device is going to be commonplace by the end of the decade.

Sure, they look kind of dorky right now, even when integrated into the cast of MadMen, but it won’t take long for the design to evolve and for those of us who wear prescription eyeglasses already, they will likely be embedded into those existing designs where you probably won’t even be able to notice who is and isn’t wearing an internet ready pair of glasses capable of recording media.

Consequently, issues of disturbing fellow patrons are all but eliminated and when it comes to copyrights and intellectual property…well…it certainly doesn’t make the issue less complicated.

Then again, perhaps Krystian Zimerman wouldn’t have even noticed the girl who was allegedly using her smartphone during his recital and would have made it all the way through in blissful ignorance. Then again, maybe not.

Postscript: if you think that folks aren’t already hashing out issues of copyright and intellectual property vis-a-vis Google Glass, think again.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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