Concepts of Music and Copyright

Concepts of Music and Copyright

How Music Perceives Itself and How Copyright Perceives Music

Edited by Andreas Rahmatian

Copyright specialists have often focused on the exploitation of copyright of music and on infringement, but not on the question of how copyright conceptualises music. This highly topical volume brings together specialists in music, musicology and copyright law, providing a genuinely interdisciplinary research approach. It compares and contrasts the concepts of copyright law with those of music and musical performance. The contributors discuss the notions of the musical work, performance, originality, authorship in music and in copyright, and co-ownership from the perspective of their own disciplines. The book also examines the role of the Musicians’ Union in the evolution of performers’ rights in UK copyright law, and, in an empirical study, the transaction costs theory for notice-and-takedown regimes in relation to songs uploaded on YouTube.

Chapter 1: What is a ‘musical work’? Reflections on the origins of the ‘work concept’ in western art music

John Butt

Subjects: law - academic, cultural heritage and art law, intellectual property law


This chapter looks at the cultural history of the ‘musical work’ as a concept in western history of music. In copyright the ‘musical work’ is presupposed as the starting point of protection for music. But the idea of the ‘musical work’ is not only more closely related to western art music, it is also associated with specific eras in the history of music. The more recent weakening of the classical work concept allows consideration of other factors implicit in the music, particularly performance. New media and methods of communication have also helped to draw attention to different ways of listening to music, something that could be going well beyond the passivity so often assumed for the consumption of musical works. Keywords: musical work; work concept; performance; philosophy of music; ideas of musical history