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 7: For the benefit of all musicians? The Musicians’ Union and performers’ rights in the UK

John Williamson

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


This chapter traces the evolution of performers’ rights in the UK with particular focus on the previously unrecognised role of the Musicians’ Union (MU). From the outset of recorded music, which the Union saw as a threat to the live work undertaken by its members, it has been an important participant in the negotiations surrounding such rights. Moreover, it has often shaped the discourse surrounding the rights of performers: simultaneously lobbying on both a national and international level while carving out deals with the record companies and broadcasters. By analysing these and mapping the shifting position of the Union in relation to not only industrial and technological changes but also the evolution of copyright legislation, the chapter aims to provide a critical evaluation of the Union’s role and offer a new perspective through which to view performers’ rights – that of musical labour. Keywords: Performers’ rights; Musicians’ Union; PPL, technology; broadcasting; copyright; recording industry

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