Bespoke Recordings: The Limits of Intellectual Property and the Revival of the Music Industry

Journal of Law, Technology & Policy 325 (2014)

36 Pages Posted: 19 Oct 2016

See all articles by Martin Skladany

Martin Skladany

Pennsylvania State University, Dickinson Law

Date Written: 2014


The recording industry and Hollywood in general have responded to declining music sales by attempting to expand excessively intellectual property protection, domestically through the proposed, yet indefinitely postponed, Stop Online Piracy Act and the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act, and internationally through the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement and the intellectual property provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. Such legislation restricts free speech, reduces innovation, and weakens due process rights on the internet. This paper proposes an alternative revenue-generating strategy—bespoke musical recordings that would be privately auctioned rather than publicly released. For example, a recording of Anne-Sophie Mutter playing a piece she has never publicly performed would be sold to a music lover or an investment fund as a one-of-a-kind recording, as unique as an Artemisia Gentileschi painting or a Camille Claudel sculpture. Besides providing the recording industry with additional revenue, bespoke recordings would generate more income for musicians, augment funds for music outreach programs and other music nonprofits, and increase the chances of discovering new musical talent. Similarly to many new markets, it would take time for such recordings to generate substantial revenue. To aid the development of a fluid market for bespoke recordings, numerous new legal and institutional arrangements would be established, including a bespoke recording registry, tailored contractual agreements, anti-counterfeit protections, and a secure bespoke recording storage facility. By facilitating an extreme form of ownership for isolated recordings, we might prevent the overall expansion of the intellectual property regime.

Keywords: intellectual property, music industry, bespoke recordings

JEL Classification: K3

Suggested Citation

Skladany, Martin, Bespoke Recordings: The Limits of Intellectual Property and the Revival of the Music Industry (2014). Journal of Law, Technology & Policy 325 (2014), Available at SSRN:

Martin Skladany (Contact Author)

Pennsylvania State University, Dickinson Law ( email )

150 S College St
Carlisle, PA 17013
United States

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