IASPM-US Website CFP – Blurred Rights: Delineating Music Ownership

by Jessica Dilday on March 31, 2015

iaspm typewriter

Recently, Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams were sentenced to shell out $7.3 million to Marvin Gaye’s family following a determination that their 2013 hit “Blurred Lines” borrowed too much from Gaye’s 1977 hit, “Got To Give It Up.” While Thicke and Williams had simply taken aesthetic cues from “Got To Give It Up,” referencing its aesthetic was considered sufficient to qualify as copyright infringement by the court. This case as well as other music copyright violations have raised vital questions regarding the changing status of ownership in popular music, such as: At what point can a particular sound be sufficiently recognizable such that it can be copyrighted? Where does one draw the line between inspiration and copyright infringement? Can an individual “own” a musical aesthetic?

SoundCloud mixes, remixes, and mashups are being taken down left and right due to alleged copyright infringement, prohibiting DJs from sharing their work with each other and with fans. In fact, our IASPM-US Mixtape Series suffered this fate on Soundcloud, leading us to migrate over to Mixcloud. SoundCloud recently hired Universal Music Group to remove any material they deem as copyright infringement, but do not inform users as to how this decision has been made or what portion of the track or mix is in violation. With no clear line drawn as to what constitutes copyright violation, artists attempting to share their music on SoundCloud now work under systematic fear of censorship by a third party major label. How will these blurred lines affect popular music production in the future and what can be learned from the past, particularly with the development of mixtape culture and musical borrowing in hip hop?

The IASPM-US website seeks 1,000-1,500 word essays, performance reviews, or alternative multimedia submissions (interactive web projects, podcasts, short video documentaries or presentations, etc.), presenting and reflecting on emerging questions and problems in music ownership.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Copyright, intellectual property law, creative commons
  • Sampling, musical borrowing
  • Mixtape culture
  • The removal of copyrighted material on distribution platforms (such as SoundCloud)
  • Pirate radio
  • Theories of music ownership

Regardless of the submission format or topic, including both text and multimedia (audio or video footage, SoundCloud or YouTube examples, images) is highly encouraged.

Deadline for proposals is 25 April 2015 10 May 2015.  Please submit drafts and multimedia files as attachments to Jess Dilday at jadilday@gmail.com. Accepted submissions will appear on the IASPM-US website during May & June 2015.



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