Week 4 Blog: Moral and Copyrights

An interesting area of copyright that has seen media attention recently is the issue of moral rights. Moral rights protect songwriters and creators in ways that aren’t economic in nature. These rights can differ from country to country, but generally protect the following:

  • Attribution: The author must be attributed when their work is used
  • Anonymity: The author must be allowed to retain anonymity if they desire
  • Reputation: The author can stop their work being used in ways they see as damaging to their reputation or career

These rights are one of the few powerful tools that creators can use to protect their work and themselves after their music has been licensed (Futureofmusic.org, 2016). A notable country that doesn’t technically have moral rights is America – despite their participation in the Berne Convention.

Understandably, this has led to several court cases over the moral rights of creators. In particular a recent appeal of a case has garnered media attention – Jay Z and Timbaland vs. Baligh Hamdi. The former’s 2000 single ‘Big Pimpin’ samples a piece of the latter’s music, which Hamdi disapproves of due to the nature of the song. The counter argument is that Timbaland did acquire the license for the music through an EMI subsidiary, which had a relation to an Egyptian country, which had a relation to Hamdi (Cooke, 2017), as well as the lack of codified moral rights in American courts.

This perhaps shed some light on the issues with music copyright outside of the academia-dominating internet/streaming debates (Liebowitz and Watt, 2006). The lack of American moral rights is somewhat troubling. Whilst the case referenced above was originally heard by a judge before dismissal, Hamdi’s side never truly had significant weight. In America, copyright is an almost exclusively economic matter, and even then has questionable success rates (illustrated by recent industry calls for transparency in regards to streaming revenue (Minsker, 2015; Edwards, 2017)).

However, as Liebowitz and Watt concluded (2006), there appears to be few alternatives to copyright – it is simply too entrenched within the music industry economy. Perhaps this is why alternative revenue streams for creators have seen increased industry attention (Cooke, 2016) – which in turn could lead to a large shift in the economic structure of the industry.




1 thought on “Week 4 Blog: Moral and Copyrights

  1. Moral rights in copyright works can be difficult to write about in a coherent way. As non-economic rights in the copyright field, they are, so to say, a different animal.
    This is why, to me, this blog makes a good effort at baring just how different the ‘animal’ is. An up to date reference to a potential shift in the economic structure of the music industry due to other revenue streams coming into the picture reminds me that the blogger has a finger on the pulse of new and potential changes concerning moral rights and copyright. A tight and informative blog.


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