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.
- Cooke, C. (2016). CMU:DIY Presents Making Money from Music.
- Cooke, C. (2017). New filing in moral right action against Jay-Z | Complete Music Update. [online] Completemusicupdate.com Available at: http://www.completemusicupdate.com/article/new-filing-in-moral-rights-action-against-jay-z/ [Accessed 7 March 2017]
- Edwards, A. (2017). The UK music industry tried to agree a ‘transparency code’ for streaming royalties. It collapsed – here’s why – Music Business Worldwide. [online] Music Business Worldwide. Available at: http://www.musicbusinessworldwide.com/the-uk-music-industry-tried-to-agree-a-transparency-code-for-streaming-royalties-it-collapsed-heres-why/ [Accessed 8 March 2017]
- Liebowitz, S. and Watt, R. (2006). HOW TO BEST ENSURE REMUNERATION FOR CREATORS IN THE MARKET FOR MUSIC COPYRIGHT AND ITS ALTERNATIVES. Journal of Economic Surveys, 20(4), pp.513-545.
- Minsker, E. (2017). David Byrne Calls for Streaming Revenue Transparency in New Op-Ed | Pitchfork. [online] Pitchfork.com. Available at: http://pitchfork.com/news/60632-david-byrne-calls-for-streaming-revenue-transparency-in-new-op-ed/ [Accessed 8 March 2017]
- org. (2016). Moral Rights for Musicians: A Primer | Future of Music Coalition. [online] Available at: https://futureofmusic.org/blog/2016/05/10/moral-rights-musicians-primer [Accessed 7 March 2017]