Week 2 Blog: Copyright and Intellectual Property

This blog looks at the issues surrounding copyright and intellectual property (IP) within the music industry (MI). Copyright is a term that originally came from the book publishing industry. “Copyright provides the legal framework for both healthy and unhealthy business models” (Patry, 2011, p.143). However, these related legislations more so within the MI differs between countries which in my opinion poses lots of problems for creators, notwithstanding that it is international “…the right to be recognised as the author of a creative work is an inalienable right” Wikström, 2013, p.19).

The Copyright Designs and Patent Act 1988 (CDPA 1988) provides the rights holder with the exclusive right to reproduce their work, make adaptations to the work, issue copies to the public perform the work in public and broadcast the work or send cable transmissions of the work. IP is about protecting a creator’s idea, which is pivotal in a contemporary world.

In order to understand and avoid infringement of the musical expressions of other creators, Rosen (2008) suggests differentiating protectable and unprotectable elements and knowing the building blocks used by composers when creating their original work, which must be treated as if it were a language. Music law is the foundation that needs profound understanding by music creators, publishers, and venturists, with its related media “…as they create numerous income streams” (Anderton, et all, 2013, p.162). Hence ‘culture industries’ as defined by Max Horkheimer and Theodor Ardono, (Rutter, 2016).

There are a variety of rights in one piece of music, performing, performance, publishing moral and synchronizing rights. Agencies such as the Performing Rights Society (PRS) for songwriters, music publishers, and composers, Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) which licenses recorded music and the mechanical copyright protection society (MCPS), (which protects the ‘mechanical’ copyright in the physical product that holds the musical work) supposedly collect royalties on behalf of the creators. Publishers intervene, monitoring and chasing up with the record companies for fair remuneration. However, Party (2011) argues that copyright laws successfully support investments in winner-take-all markets dominated by superstars where 8% receive 80% of the royalties thus not helping the majority.

“Unauthorized copying has always been a rhetorical bogey-man…”(Patry 2011, p.4). The policing/managing of money within a commercialized MI that heavily relies on technology is a discourse that is a major concern as the industry relies on an outmoded business model. Anderton, et al, (2013) argue that “…unauthorized sale and free downloading and streaming of copyrighted music recordings is a cause of great concern to those traditional MI, since a digitized recording may be copied, shared, and distributed without diminishing its value

Policymakers put in place several ways of preventing copyright infringement making counterfeiting among other infringements, less appealing:

  • Digital Right Management (DRM) gives a traceable individual ID embedded in a code.
  • Take down Internet service providers (ISP) that are used for propagating illegal music content.
  • Broadband service is made responsible, charged or prosecuted or if they do not block peer-to-peer shop sites. Virgin Records a subsidiary of Virgin conglomerate are also in the forefront of particular interest.

In light of the above Patry (2011) argues, “Taking away the ability to buy lawful copies increases unlawful copying”.

Patry (2011) states, “…old laws are inhibiting rather than encouraging creativity”, for instance, sampling, a new form of art involves creating something new from other artists creations that may not benefit from their original work. Musical creativity is deep-seated in “unconscious process of borrowing and referring to other works’ (Hesmondhalgh, 2007:153 cited in Anderton, et al, 2013, p.164). Most artists do not mind as long as they are credited and welcome the free publicity as the bulk of their income comes from live performances/gigs and merchandise nonetheless they do not own the rights to their song, which puts them in a predicament with “conflicts between authors and the distributors…copyright laws are failing to protect against their losses” (Patry, 2011).

The traditional notions of giving creators and their approved licensees the right of copyright over their works still hold true in the face of advances in technology, sampling, peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing, non-linear software recording and editing have posed challenges to copyright law with varying levels of impact.



Anderton, C., Dubber, A. and James, M. (2013) Understanding the music industries. London: SAGE Publications.

Patry, W. (2011) How to fix Copyright. New York: Oxford University Press.

Rosen, R.S. (2008) Music and Copyright. New York: Oxford University Press.

Wikström, P. and Wikström, P. (2013) The music industry: Music in the cloud. 2nd edn. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Polity Press.



Cornish, W.R. and Llewelyn, D. (2003) Intellectual property: Patents, copyrights, trade marks and allied rights. 5th edn. London: Sweet & Maxwell.

Frith, S. and Marshall, L. (eds.) (2004) Music and copyright; Ed. By Simon Frith. 2nd edn. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Rutter, P. (2016) The music industry handbook. 2nd edn. Oxon: Routledge.

Vaidhyanathan, S. (2001a) Copyrights and copywrongs: The rise of intellectual property and how it threatens creativity. New York: New York University Press.



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