Academic journal article Review of Artistic Education

Law and Music: Copyright and Neighboring Rights

Academic journal article Review of Artistic Education

Law and Music: Copyright and Neighboring Rights

Article excerpt

Composers' and performers' Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs)

Composers usually write down their music putting on the stave particular symbols, which suggest appropriate speed, meter, rhythms, pitches, articulation, and dynamics. Although selection of the symbols may be very accurate, performances may differ very much from one another, because each interpreter may accord different values to the various elements, emphasizing some of them, and putting others in the shadows.

This derives from the fact that, as music does not explicitly refer to the nonmusical world of objects, concepts, and human desires7*7, the meaning of a musical work lies within its closed context75, and may change according to the relevance given to specific elements rather than to others.

In effect, the contribution a performer gives to the general shape of a piece is so relevant, that sometimes the piece is attributed to him or her: this occurs above all in pop music, where common people usually identify the singer of a song as the author of both music and lyrics. However, also in classical music, performing is deemed a creative act in which the performer interprets the score basing on his or her theoretical knowledge, skills, and aesthetic principles76.

As a consequence, music performance may be compared to a photograph: both interpret an object or event while reproducing it, and can therefore be considered loose and accurate at the same time. A photographer who produces works of art, irrespective of their artistic merit, owns specific rights to his or her creations: copyright, which protects the photographer from both direct and indirect copying of his or her work77, and moral rights, which prevent others from making alterations to the author's work.

If music performance can be considered a creative act, should performers be entitled to specific rights, as well as photographers? In effect, some rights are assigned to music performers, as producers of acts of creation. Some of these rights concern the performance in itself; others concern different kind of media which can broadcast the performance, such as CDs, DVDs, films, or television programs.

Performers own non-property and property rights. With regards to the former, performers shall be asked for authorization in order to make recordings of live concerts played by them, and to broadcast them; as regards the latter (IPRs), performers shall be asked for permission in order to make copies of these recordings, and may be entitled to remuneration when the recording is electronically transmitted or publicly performed, or copies thereof are rent or sold/s.

Early history of copyright in Anglo-American countries

Anyway, copyright, a term which literally means "the right to make copies", has a weak connection with performance, and vice-versa a very strong one with composition.

The first decision regarding the right to make copies may be that of King Diarmait Mac Cerbhaill, High King of Ireland in the late sixth century. He was requested to decide in the dispute about the ownership of an Irish Psalter known as the Cathach, and the copy Saint Columba made of it: Saint Finnian argued that, being he the owner of the original, he should own also the copy, but the copyist disagreed. In his decision, the king resorted to a comparison from farmers' life, claiming that, as a calf belongs to the cow, the copy belongs to the book, and ruled in favor of Finnian79.

However, as hand-made copies were so expensive that not even libraries owned many books , the issue about the right to make copies was not a nagging problem before the advent of the printing press. On the contrary, as printed books became cheaper than hand-copied ones, and therefore affordable to new classes of people, this question called great attention.

Already in 1403, English makers and sellers of books and manuscripts had organized as a guild called the "Stationers' Company". After Caxton brought the printing technology to England in 1476 , the Stationers' Company absorbed the practitioners of the new technology into their organization, so that the composition of the guild tended to consist mainly of printers and booksellers . …

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