Music Copyright Infringement and the Law
Everyone loves listening to good music and for this music to be produced a lot of efforts are put in place. To produce high-quality music artists, record companies, distributors and marketers invest their time, money and talent (Fiesler, Feuston & Bruckman, 2015). For this reason, music as a product is copyrighted just like any other invention and innovation. Music is also of the popular forms of art thus, it is accessed all over the world. It is a well-known fact that artists, songwriters and music producers are inspired by earlier or existing works of their collegues (Rychlicki & Zieli?ski, 2009). Under certain circumstances, the decision to use small samples of work of other artists can amount to music copyright infringement (Eble, 2013). Consequently, in instances where there is a conflict between inspiration and appropriation, the later triumphs thus the copyright infringement law should be applied in full regardless of its implication to freedom of speech.
The Copyright Law
Following the Copyright Act of 1976 that was implemented in 1978, if an individual records or writes an original piece of music, it is automatically protected by a copyright (Eble, 2013). It is optional to register the work with the United States Copyright Office which gives the author certain benefits when a copyright violation case occurs. The elements of music that can be copyrighted include rhythm, melody, lyrics and chord progression. However, any songs published before 1923 are assumed to be in the public domain and are not covered by the copyright law (Fiesler, Feuston & Bruckman, 2015). Additionally, music compositions and other creative works enter the public domain after the demise of the creator plus seventy years later according to the federal law.
Copyright Infringement
The use of works that are protected by copyright law without obtaining express permission, violating certain exclusive rights given to the copyright holder constitutes copyright infringement. Such exclusive rights include a right to display, distribute, reproduce, perform copyrighted work or to do derivative works (Challis, 2015). Once a copyright infringement occurs it becomes a federal or civil cause of action for the case of the United States (Keyes, 2003). Most of the cases of violation of copyright occur when a third party undertakes any of the particular acts granted to the rights holder without special authorization (Fiesler, Feuston & Bruckman, 2015). In order not to break the law, every artist should understand the difference between the inspiration and appropriation.
Inspiration and Appropriation Dilemma
Making a differentiation between inspiration and appropriation concerning music copyright violation is not easy, even for the judiciary. For instance, the United States federal jury decision in the case of Blurred Lines generated more confusion as to what constitutes music copyright infringement (Challis, 2015). Producers of music today tend to reuse small bits of existing music as an inspiration (McCabe, 2015). The aspect of reusing existing music such as lyrics and rhythm is termed as sampling. The aim of sampling is not to exploit another artists or recording labels work, but to express ones admiration of a musical work (Keyes, 2003). The music genres of hip-hop and rap commonly sample and reference works of others.
About the author: Jane Barnaby is a master in Literature at Maryland University. She is currently working as one of the best writers at the She also studies male psychology.