The Complicator Vol. 11 – Is Copyright at Odds with the Essential Purpose and Nature of Song?

Greetings,

More good comments and discussions last time. Thanks to all who read and post each week!

I think I’m still generally contemplating the ramifications of all things copyright this week. I just started reading The Rose and the Briar: Death, Love and Liberty in the American Ballad, and just reading the first few essays, which discuss songs like Barbara Allen and The Water is Wide, I found myself wondering about how these old songs might have fared had they been written today.

These haunting, archetypical songs come from anonymous sources, not from single authors, and because of that, I think an interesting parallel can be drawn between the shared origins of these classic ballad songs and something contemporary like mashups.

Now, I’m not comparing the importance of, say, the Grey Album to a seven hundred year old song. However, the classic ballads exemplify what is artistically potent in the tranformation of personal content to shared content. Whatever you might think about mashups as a genre, a similar absorption of sources is at play. Who really knows where mashups might end up if they continue for 500 years?

Had the current copyright laws been in place in the 1500’s, that original version of a song might have been closed, insulated from the subsequent additions that transformed it from a singular bit of storytelling into a shared repository of human wisdom, dread, wonderment, and community.

So, if there is something shared and communal in the essential nature of music, and especially in songs, then would it follow that restricting the creative community’s freedom to amend, alter and interact with new ideas is in conflict with the essence of the art?

Have at it,
mz

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *