Proposal 1 (Gov’t): Copyright Laws and the Music Industry


As I stated in my previous post regarding think tanks, I’m extremely interested in doing my white paper on an aspect of the music industry. Music is a subject that hits very close to home with me and it’s an industry in which I would love to work sometime soon.

When it comes to a white paper though, that requires aspects from business, government, and society…I thought what better topic to discuss than that of copyrights. This topic is talked about most frequently (in my opinion) within the arts industries and most specifically the music industry.

I’ve decided for this proposal to focus on the government aspect of it all. Why does the government play such a big role in this? Well, they’re the ones that created the law to begin with. There are general copyright laws but they do have a very specific one for musical works as stated below:

“Legally a copyright means that a musician, author, or artist has a “limited duration monopoly” on anything he creates. The US Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, grands the government power “to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries”. A work is automatically under copyright protection from the moment of creation, but to legally file for copyright infringement the copyright must be registered with the copyright office. Registering a composition provides public notification of copyright and allows the copyright owner to demand damages and attorney’s fees if his copyright is infringed. If you use a song under copyright protection without the owner’s permission, you are opening yourself to possible legal action.”

This was taken from Public Domain Information Project website and is a brief summary of the Title 17 of the United States Code administered by the US Copyright Office.

That “limited time” that they mention in this ranges anywhere form 70-95 years depending on when the work was created. If the word was published before 1923 then there is a maximum copyright protection of 75 years. This date has expired which means these works are in the public domain. Anything published between 1923 and 1978 has a maximum copyright protection of 95 years and will enter the public domain on 1/1/2019. Anything published after 1978 has a maximum copyright protection of “the life of the longest surviving author plus 70 years”. This means that the earliest possible public domain date would be 1/1/2049.

What are the goals behind the copyright acts that the government put in place? Their intentions are to honor the rights and creative minds of the musicians that have published works of art. These dates extend the relevance of musical creations for many years so that they are preserved for future generations. Obviously there is a cutoff point where they become part of the public domain. Though in many cases, at that point, much of that music is either forgotten or has been around long enough where the usage of the work by other musicians will grow innovation in the industry.

For my white paper I would like to dive into this topic a little bit more in regards to the thought process behind the laws and whether or not the maximum copyright protection lifetimes are adequate.

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