Week 2 – Coachella, Marijuana, and Intellectual Property

Scholars have suggested that music and copyright is so synonymous that the music industries are simply copyright industries (Laing, 2004; Wikstrom, 2009; Towse, 2016) due to the paradigmatic shift from the sale of printed music to the exploitation and commodification of musical rights in the digital age.

McCann (2001) suggests that it is almost impossible to separate intellectual property and copyright from its role as an instrument of commodification within capitalist systems, a side effect of music that acts in support of a particular value system within that value system (Keil and Feld, 1994), as if intellectual property protects the identity the artist has constructed through their music.

Updating this thought, I question whether intellectual property gives us the power to protect our identity as well as our music, as our music is an outright representation of our identity? Mosendz (2017), for Bloomberg, reported that the musical festival Coachella recently sent out cease-and-desist orders to a cannabis-growing company who were distributing a Coachella branded-and-inspired packet of pre-rolled joints for festival goers. What is most interesting about this typical case of intellectual property and copyright, perhaps, is the way in which the laissez-faire BoHo-inspired hippy-branded festival has in some ways represented itself in an entirely different light by its legal actions. Lewin (2006) suggests that intellectual property is intellectual capital, an economical alternative to Bourdeiu’s (1986) forms of capital, particularly that of social and cultural capital.

Whilst I agree with this notion of intellectual property as intellectual capital, in both an economical and philosophical way, it is difficult to comprehend whether this offers the creator, in this case Coachella, the power to protect their identity yet compromise it at the same through doing so. Adapting Wilson’s (2008) work, I suggest that if a product is created inspired by Coachella, than the creator owns the product they’ve created, and not that of Coachella’s owners, therefore it could be argued that Coachella’s attempt to protect their identity is unnecessary as the creators of the pre-packed joints are inspired and purposed for their festival, but are not being sold by themselves and therefore are a separate product.

Going further, it would be interesting to investigate the ways in which music festivals, and cultural events as a wider field, navigate the axis between intellectual property, copyright, and identity and how the three go hand-in-hand. If intellectual property and copyright protects the festival, rightfully, and acts in the best interests of the festival, then is there any need to disrupt creativity inspired from them, particularly if the identity of the festival is one of creativity and simplicity.


Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In J. Richardson, ed. Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education. New York: Greenwood.

Keil, C. and Feld, S. (1994). Music Grooves: Essays and Dialogues. Chicago: University of Chicago. Press.

Laing, D. (2004). Copyright, Politics and the International Music Industry. In: S. Frith and L. Marshall, ed., Music and Copyright, 2nd ed. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp.71-85.

Lewin, P. (2006). Creativity or Coercion: Alternative Perspectives on Rights to Intellectual Property. Journal of Business Ethics, 71(4), pp.441-455.

McCann, A. (2001). All That Is Not Given Is Lost: Irish Traditional Music, Copyright, and Common Property. Ethnomusicology, 45(1), p.89.

Mosendz, P. (2017). Coachella Isn’t All That Chill About Its Brand. [online] Bloomberg.com. Available at: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-04-10/coachella-isn-t-all-that-chill-about-its-brand [Accessed 10 Apr. 2017].

Towse, R. (2016). Economics of music publishing: copyright and the market. Journal of Cultural Economics. [online] Available at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10824-016-9268-7 [Accessed 10 Apr. 2017].

Wikström, P. (2009). The music industry. 1st ed. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Wilson, J. (2008). Could There be a Right to Own Intellectual Property?. Law and Philosophy, 28(4), pp.393-427.




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