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What goes around...
Copyright laws, Iranian style

By Sepehr Haddad
September 26, 2000
The Iranian

I remember as a kid going to a music store called Sonny (that's right, with two Ns) in Tehran. The one I frequented was on Karim-Khan Zand Street where they duplicated any album on demand. You could even buy two of your favorite albums on one 90 minute cassette for a fraction of the price of the original ones at the record store.

Of course, back then if I knew that I was going to be in the music business and rely on royalties, I may have thought twice before eagerly buying tons of Cat Stevens, Pink Floyd and Jethro Tull cassettes. I didn't care that Sonny pocketed the profits that belonged to the artists.

The owner of the store told me foreign pilots bought him records from airport stores and that's how he had the latest album from every artist. I was even propositioned to bring the latest albums every summer when I was returning from the U.S. I was offered good money but I never did it.

At first, we just got black and white covers on the bootleg cassettes. But eventually Sonny's copies started looking better than the original albums. All of this was made possible due to the fact that Iran had not signed the International copyright convention.

Fast forward 20 years. Now in the U.S. I have always been curious about whether Googoosh has gotten any royalties from the Los Angeles outfits that reproduced her songs. Someone told me that if a company held the copyright to her albums in Iran, then they owned the copyright to her work everywhere else. I never looked into this but it doesn't sound right. (Any international copyright lawyers out there?)

Anyway, six years ago Shahin (my best friend from high school in Iran) and I decided to form Shahin & Sepehr and were signed by Higher Octave Music (now owned by Virgin Records) to a multi-album deal. In November of this year they will release our latest album -- "East-West Highway, The Best of Shahin and Sepehr". It includes favorites from our previous four albums.

The funny part of this whole story is that a friend of ours just returned from Iran and brought us a CD which he thought we might enjoy. It's called "Shahin & Sepehr-- Behtarin-haaye Guitar (Best of Guitar)". That's right. Some company in Iran has decided to make its own version of our "best of" album without our permission.

From what I hear, the album is selling very well. The most annoying thing is the warning on the CD:

WARNING: Any unauthorized reproduction of this CD and any of its songs will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law since this CD is protected by International copyright laws!

I guess what goes around comes around. Maybe if I hadn't purchased all those bootleg cassettes when I was a kid in Tehran, now I wouldn't be threatened with "prosecution to the fullest extent of the law" if I decide to copy my own music.

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