If you went out into the streets and asked members of the public their thoughts on copyright, I imagine you would end up with the following sorts of results. Most people respect copyright. They think it is a valuable tool for encouraging artistic works. Or they think it is a fundamental right that creators have to protect their work. Or they are not quite sure what they think, but they know copyright is important, that they would never infringe copyright and that only pirates and criminals would do so.
Now imagine going out into the street and asking those same people to sing or hum a few lines from their favourite song (or simply sing you Happy Birthday). I imagine that many people (provided you asked nicely) would be happy to oblige – after all, there is clearly nothing improper about doing so. Except there is. Arguably, such an act would count as an infringement of copyright; if the song was still covered by copyright (for songs, until 70 years after the death of the author(s) in the UK) the law makes it very clear that a “performance of the work in public is an act restricted by the copyright”1 and that a “performance” includes “any mode of visual or acoustic presentation”.”2 By merely singing or humming a few lines (arguably a “substantial part”) there is a prima facie infringement. That person would now be a pirate.
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