Concepts of Music and Copyright
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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.
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Chapter 5: Who wrote Duke Ellington’s music? Authorship and collective creativity in ‘Mood Indigo’

Björn Heile


The copyright system privileges composition over performance, particularly improvisation, and melody over harmony. Both of these evaluations are problematic in the field of popular music, which is often the result of collaborative processes involving improvisation, and where harmonic structures may be of greater importance than recognisable tunes. In this chapter, Björn Heile will illuminate the creative process of the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Often regarded as, variously, America’s or the twentieth-century’s ‘greatest composer’, Ellington arguably comes closest to a traditional authorial figure in jazz. Nevertheless, the majority of his most famous creations are the result of often complex collaborative processes. Using ‘Mood Indigo’ as a case study, this chapter will reconstruct the creative contributions of various individuals in detail, evaluating their originality and significance for the final result. As the chapter will show, although he was by no means the sole creator of the song, Ellington did take most of the fundamental creative decisions and, as bandleader, lent the tune a ‘brand identity’. Keywords: Copyright authorship; musical works; jazz; Duke Ellington; Mood Indigo; Billy Strayhorn

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