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The Blurred Lines of Copyright Law Are Limiting Musical Creativity

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The Blurred Lines of Copyright Law Are Limiting Musical Creativity

Postby MrFredPFL » Mon May 14, 2018 10:03 pm

Story :

ISometimes it seems as if today’s musicians spend as much time defending themselves against copyright infringement lawsuits as they do writing new music. Reading about suits against Ed Sheeran, Nicki Minaj, Pharrell Williams, Robin Thicke, and a host of others, one might be tempted to think that contemporary pop artists are just uncreative copycats.

I have argued, with my colleagues Stefan Bechold and Christopher Sprigman, that any field of creative production has a certain “innovation space.” This space represents the world of possible solutions to a given creative problem. At the beginning of a field, whether sonata form or smartphone design, the innovation space is wide open. Anyone is free to do almost anything. Over time, however, portions of the innovation space get filled by intellectual property rights. The earliest creators fill up the innovation space with their copyrights and patents, limiting the options for newcomers. Newer creators are faced with a dilemma in which they must either find a portion of the innovation space that hasn’t been claimed or pay a license fee to one of their predecessors.

The available innovation space for popular music has changed substantially over the last 75 years. Some innovations, most importantly rock and roll and rap, have dramatically expanded the areas of available musical creativity. Certain kinds of music that would have been unthinkable a generation or two earlier now fall squarely within the mainstream.

But there are reasons to be concerned. The scope of musical creativity likely isn’t infinite. New research applying social science methods to aesthetics suggests that people’s musical preferences are more limited than was previously believed. So while it’s possible that we’re on the cusp of another major evolution in musical taste, it’s also possible that we’re getting close to exhausting the varieties of music that people find appealing.

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