#mamusicindustries MED7020: Copyright – What a headache!

I found week two’s task and readings about copyright very challenging, mainly because as soon as I thought I had some sort of grasp or an idea about the subject, I came across new questions relating to it that made my previous ideas redundant.

The first issue I had was to define copyright.

When I looked at how the authors of this week’s readings defined it, I couldn’t find a clear cut definition. So I looked up how other authors and copyright related organisations were defining copyright.

In this document the IFPI says: “Copyright protects creative people against […] unauthorised copying or distribution of their material, which amounts to theft of their livelihood”.

While WIPO says: “Copyright and related rights protect the rights of authors, performers, producers and broadcasters, and contribute to the cultural and economic development of nations. The purpose of copyright and related rights is twofold: to encourage a dynamic creative culture, while returning value to creators so that they can lead a dignified economic existence, and to provide widespread, affordable access to content for the public.”

Passman (p. 208, 2004) says that “the legal [US] definition of copyright is ‘a limited duration monopoly’,” while Bainbridge (p. 27, 2007) states that “copyright is a property right that subsist in certain specified types of works as provided for by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988”. Baskerville (p. 576, 2006) seems to have the clearest definition, that copyright is “the legal right to reproduce, adapt, distribute, perform publicly, and display a work of intellectual property”.

Given all this, it doesn’t seem to me that there is one, single definition for copyright. Lawyers, economists, music organisations, authors, musicians, scholars, all seem to have their own definitions and depending on their background, they all seem to have a different focus when it comes to the antonyms raised in last week’s lecture.

To complicate matters further, it takes on a different meaning in different countries and throughout history as discussed by Dave Laing in chapter four of “Music and Copyright”.

So what is copyright? I don’t know… And I am starting to understand why there seems to be so many disputes in this specific area.

My second issue was to put copyright in the context of my own goals.

Of interest to me were firstly Chapter 1 of Wikström talks about copyright in relation to the industry, describing it as a ‘Copyright Industry’ – how the flow of copyright generates money, how each sector earns its cut and exploits copyright for a commercial gain (some more than other).

Secondly, how copyright is placed in relation to creativity and how music can be viewed as a language, as discussed in chapter 3 of Rosen. How do you distinguish between what is original and therefore subject to copyright and what is part of the common language and therefore in the public domain?

Thirdly, should intellectual property and copyright law be modernised, as suggested in the Hargreaves report, so the UK can economically benefit from all the new innovations and growth in business/trade?

Whatever copyright is, the main driving force of the music industry as it stands seems to be as Wikström describes it – the exploitation of copyright for financial gain.

But this is not the whole story. As the other authors argue, there are creative, social, economic and historical aspects that need to be taken into consideration when we look at copyright and where we are heading.

One thing that has occurred to me, is that while copyright today might not have a single definition, could it be argued that having one single definition is not enough to serve every purpose we expect of it?

I don’t have an answer, all I have is even more questions…

Bainbridge, D (2007), “Intellectucal Property”
Baskerville, D (2006), “Music Business Handbook And Career Guide”
Passman, D. ( 2004), “All You Need To Know About The Music Industry”