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Introduction: harmony or dissonance?: copyright concepts and musical practice

Barron, Anne (2006) Introduction: harmony or dissonance?: copyright concepts and musical practice. Social and Legal Studies, 15 (1). pp. 25-51. ISSN 0964-6639

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Identification Number: 10.1177/0964663906060972


The institution of copyright has frequently been criticized by scholars of popular music for systematically misrepresenting and under-privileging popular music as a field of creative practice. In this respect, it is sometimes suggested, copyright law harbours a bias in favour of Western art music that is remarkably similar to that embedded in musicology, the discipline in opposition to which popular music studies chiefly defines itself. Setting the scene for this special section of Social & Legal Studies on (copyright) law and music, this introduction reviews the literature in which these concerns have been expressed, and traces them to the fact that copyright law - not unlike musicology - operates with a conception of the musical artefact as a bounded expressive form originating in the compositional efforts of some individual: a fixed, reified work of authorship. It explores the origins and significance of the workconcept as a musicological category, and critically analyses the claim that the legal concept of the musical work is identical to this category and has been determined by it. It concludes with the suggestion that the legal and aesthetic musical work-concepts are at once distinct and overlapping: both reify a temporal experience (a musical event), but for very different reasons. Whereas the musicological category facilitates a certain kind of musical appreciation and certain kinds of listening practice, the legal category facilitates the drawing of proprietary boundaries around ‘objects’ that will figure in commercial transactions and be the focus of commercial expectations.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2006 Sage Publications
Divisions: Law
Subjects: K Law > K Law (General)
Date Deposited: 02 Oct 2007
Last Modified: 02 Apr 2024 18:15

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