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The Struggle for Music Copyright

Michael W. Carroll

American University Washington College of Law

Villanova Law/Public Policy Research Paper No. 2005-7

Inspired by passionate contemporary debates about music copyright, this Article investigates how, when, and why music first came within copyright's domain. Ironically, although music publishers and recording companies are among the most aggressive advocates for strong copyright in music today, music publishers in eighteenth-century England resisted extending copyright to music. This Article sheds light on a series of early legal disputes concerning printed music that yield important insights into original understandings of copyright law and music's role in society. By focusing attention on this understudied episode, this Article demonstrates that the concept of copyright was originally far more circumscribed than it is today and that music - which currently is treated as core copyrightable subject matter - presented a difficult case. A number of audiences will benefit from a better understanding of the struggle over music copyright, including scholars who advance general theories about the evolution of property rights and policymakers seeking to place the current disputes over music copyright in historical perspective.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 56

Keywords: music copyright, copyright law, property rights

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Date posted: March 16, 2005  

Suggested Citation

Carroll, Michael W., The Struggle for Music Copyright. Villanova Law/Public Policy Research Paper No. 2005-7. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=687963

Contact Information

Michael W. Carroll (Contact Author)
American University Washington College of Law ( email )
4801 Massachusetts Avenue N.W.
Washington, DC 20016
United States
202-274-4047 (Phone)
202-730-4756 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.wcl.american.edu/faculty/mcarroll/
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