Course Information

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Music's Copyright: A Historical, Incentives-Based, and Aesthetic Analysis of the Law of Music

This course will begin by exploring the historical structure of incentives in music and the changing economics of music production, including the preconditions for thinking of music as "property" and the gradual shift from patronage to a market-oriented system. It will then proceed to examine music's unusually complex and increasingly fraught relationship with copyright law. The fundamental notions of originality and illicit copying are at odds with both functional limitations and long-standing aesthetic practices in music, such as the long history of accepted borrowing. As a result, there is an unusual body of music-specific case law that features intriguing circuit splits, vigorous disputes about expert testimony and prior art, and specialized doctrinal issues. Students will gain an in-depth knowledge of these issues, and then apply this knowledge in a mock trial based on the recent case involving the song "Blurred Lines." The course will also cover the complicated licensing schemes that attach to different uses of music, from traditional revenue streams to fresh disputes regarding royalties for new uses such as ringtones and streaming services. It will conclude with an in-depth examination of the ongoing debates about how both the law and business practices might adapt to the new musical forms (such as sampling and remixing) and business models (such as do-it-yourself distribution) enabled by digital technology. Throughout the semester, the course will include a special focus on current and ongoing disputes, issues, scholarship, and proposals.

Copyright Law (LAW 322) or Intellectual Property Law (LAW 270) are required as a pre-requisite or co-requisite.

Please note that course organization and content may vary substantially from semester to semester and descriptions are not necessarily professor specific. Please contact the instructor directly if you have particular course-related questions.

Prerequisite Information

Copyright Law (Law 322) or Intellectual Property (Law 270) Can also be co-requisites.


Jennifer Jenkins
Music's Copyright: A Historical, Incentives-Based, and Aesthetic Analysis of the Law of Music 781.01
Fall 2015
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