Lionel Bently (University of Cambridge): De-naturalizing Musical Authorship
Determinations of who counts as an ‘author’ of a musical work has a number of legal consequences. Most obviously, it governs who count as the first owners of copyright, and thus who benefits from revenue streams associated with publishing/ recording (mechanicals) and performance (including broadcasting and streaming). Secondly, it is relevant to the duration of copyright – the term of copyright in music and lyrics being calculated by reference (i.e. currently seventy years after) the death of the author (or in the case of co-authorship the last author to die). Third, being an author entitles a person to be named as such when a work is published or recordings are distributed: authors are granted what is known as the ‘moral right’ of attribution.
Copyright law has tended to assume that the legal concept of authorship maps onto a natural, flesh-and-blood, human beings. It thus is typically taken for granted that identifying who is an author for one purpose (say, ownership) necessarily operates to identify the author for other purposes (term, attribution). In so doing, the dominant arena for determining authorship concerns ownership. Here the rules have developed rather restrictively, so as to exclude from the category of authors a perhaps surprising range of contributions (as seen most clearly in the Spandau Ballet case, Hadley v Kemp). But the effect of such an approach is not just to exclude contributors from counting as owners, but also from being entitled to attribution.
Certainly, one can see the logic in assuming that the word ‘author’ means the same thing in different parts of a statute, and indeed the convenience in so doing. However, if we consider the legal task of ascribing authorship as informed by matters of policy, the assumed unity or integrity of ‘authorship’ in copyright seems problematic. The policy considerations that underpin restricting who counts as an author in the three domains – ownership, term and attribution – are very different. By exploring these policies in more detail, I want to suggest that copyright law could respond more flexibly to a diverse range of creative practices if it recognised that the legal concept of authorship is not ‘natural’. One consequence of so doing might at least to be to afford rights of attribution to a wider array of contributors than are currently accommodated by the moral right of attribution.
Keith Negus / John Street / Adam Behr: Digitisation and the Politics of Copying in Popular Music Culture
Musicians are at the forefront of discussions around revenue loss in the music industry, yet often neglected in existing studies which usually focus on corporate perspectives or audience activities. Drawing on extensive interviews with musicians operating in different genres – and at different points in their careers – within the broad field of popular music this paper presents initial observations from an investigation of how the notion of ‘original’ ideas and rights of access (and hence copyright) are negotiated by practicing musicians. How do they regard duplicating without permission in order to circulate free copies or bootlegs? How do they see the practice of appropriating, reusing, sampling and imitating? How does this relate to the existing legal and policy framework?
Creativity, Circulation and Copyright: Sonic and Visual Media in the Digital Age
I’m at the University of Cambridge today, attending a conference about creativity and copyright. As is my habit with academic conferences I’ll be blogging each session I attend and providing links. The conference is hosted by the Centre for for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities.
Kiri Miller (Brown University): Dance Like the Xbox is Watching
Abstract: Dance Central is a digital game series that offers private dance lessons using a surveillance technology. For many players, this embedded contradiction drives the games’ appeal. Dance is a potentially humiliating activity, and dancing to club hits like no one is watching is a high-risk guilty pleasure. But what if only a machine is watching, and the club moves have been choreographed in advance? Dance Central was among the first games produced for the Microsoft Xbox Kinect, a full-body motion-sensing game interface marketed with the slogan ‘You Are the Controller’. The Kinect camera peripheral tracks the motion of 20 individual joints on a dancer’s body, evaluating the technical accuracy of a player’s performance of a routine without acknowledging the aspects of embodied identity that typically inform judgments of club dance performances (e.g., gender, race, sexuality, age, and body type). The dance routines are set to hip-hop, EDM, and pop club tracks; they mix choreographed sections with freestyle sections, asking players to alternate between dancefloor compliance and creativity. This paper investigates how the Dance Central games frame a surveillance system as a safe, private space for dance — including solo rehearsal/performance and social dance with trusted friends — and how the games’ dynamic of seeing-and-being-seen changes when players post gameplay videos online. I discuss Dance Central gameplay as a form of embodied popular music reception that intersects with other forms of popular music/video circulation, social media practice, and dispersed participatory culture.