At the present stage, the global society and the economy have seen a steady growth of the intellectual property role. Its use in the field of music has become particularly widespread with the rapid advance in the copyright market in this area taking place. However, the latter is accompanied by the growing frequency of offenses, which inevitably entails an increase in the number of disputes on the music copyright protection. In particular, the current situation with piracy is connected with the entry of musical works into the digital age. Currently, the compliance with copyright laws on the Internet usually depends on the level of the users’ legal culture since it is virtually impossible to monitor all cases of unauthorized placement and use of music on the web. Moreover, the low level of compliance with the legislation in this area also stems from the fact that the overwhelming majority of modern musicians are not aware of their rights as well as the possible ways to protect their works. In turn, such negligence creates the favorable conditions for piracy, plagiarism, and the other types of illegal activity that have a negative effect on the original content creators. As a result, the relevance of the music copyright infringement problem remains quite high, which dictates the need for its study. In this regard, it is necessary to conduct a review of the major laws in this area, specifically the international ones, as well as analyze the recent cases in the musical industry related to the issue and present a personal opinion on the matter.
The copyright laws that are applicable to music vary depending on the origin country, meaning that in some cases, legal protection, as a rule, is likely to be provided to the local population but not to the foreign citizens. In this regard, the territory of copyright tends to be limited by the state borders. However, the recent globalization trends, which have resulted in the dilution of the boundaries between the different countries, have reduced the efficiency of the local protective measures considerably (Cummings, 2013). Therefore, the reliance on the international copyright laws allows overcoming the territorial nature of the existing legislation, which is particularly important in the modern age that is characterized by the rapid development of information technologies. The most well-known is the Berne Convention that was adopted in 1886 and is based on the several principles. First, it grants the right to the so-called national regime to the citizens of a particular state that reside on the territory of the other countries. This means that the foreigners are equal in rights and duties to the locals when it comes to the copyright protection (Rahmatian, 2015). Additionally, the scope of the latter, as well as the means of its protection, is regulated by the law of the state in which such protection is sought. For example, the works of the French musician will be protected in the United States in accordance with the US national law instead of French one (Rahmatian, 2015). The Berne Convention also establishes the minimum guarantees for the international legal copyright protection, which does not prevent states from establishing the higher security levels, specifically in terms of copyright expiration (Rahmatian, 2015). Another considerable act is the WIPO Copyright Treaty that was adopted in 1996 when the rapid technology development, primarily the Internet and means of communications, required the introduction of the new measures to protect the artistic works. Today, more than eighty countries are its parties. The main principles of the WIPO Copyright Treaty are as follows. First of all, it recognizes the validity of the Berne Convention while indicating that none of the WIPO Copyright Treaty’s provisions shall affect the rights granted by the Berne Convention in a negative way (Rahmatian, 2015). It also fixes the exclusive right to bring the work to the public, which means a ban on posting and distribution of the protected intellectual activity results, namely music, in the networks including the Internet, without the author’s permission (Fishman, 2017). This rule is the core of the WIPO Copyright Treaty and extends the list of copyrights under the Berne Convention. Finally, it is established that copyrights extend only to the results of the artistic work, but not to ideas, methods, processes, and concepts utilized by the musicians (Rahmatian, 2015). Thus, the WIPO Copyright Treaty has improved and supplemented the Berne Convention’s norms, making it possible for the international copyright laws to protect the works of art presented in the digital form and allowing copyright holders avoiding the misuse of their products on the Internet and the other networks.
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The information presented above makes it possible to assume that in theory, the results of the musicians’ labor are properly protected from illegal copying and distribution. However, in reality, the situation is much more complex, as it is demonstrated by the case of Led Zeppelin, a popular music band which was accused of plagiarism on numerous occasions. At the same time, the musicians refute the accusations, meaning that, in order to resolve the problem, one has to distinguish between the inspiration produced by the works of the other artists and their blatant copying (McCabe, 2015). To demonstrate the complexity of this issue, the case presents the example of Anne Bredon and her song Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You that was arranged numerous times by the various authors, including Led Zeppelin. This fact was discovered by the original author several decades later, making her file a lawsuit against the band. However, in order to succeed, Anne Bredon had to prove that Led Zeppelin had access to her original work. Otherwise, their song will be considered similar to hers rather than plagiarized (McCabe, 2015). By taking into account the fact that Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You was first performed in the 1960s and was considered an official folk song without any authorship claims, this task was quite difficult. The presented issue is also exacerbated by the fact that in many cases, the plagiarized songs use the source material created by less known musicians, meaning that one should expect a negative reaction from the public to the lawsuit involving a famous musical group that copied the music of an unknown artist (McCabe, 2015). Thus, the argument resolution between Anne Bredon and Led Zeppelin is unlikely to be an easy and quick process considering that the chances of an actual trial on the basis of the acquired evidence are quite low.
From the personal standpoint, it is possible to state that the reviewed case demonstrates the complexity of the copyright infringement problem as well as the importance of understanding the copyright protection principles. Such knowledge may not only help to prevent the illegal activity in the music industry but also allow reducing the unnecessary expenditure of resources. In particular, it is stated in the article that the plagiarism identification process, particularly in songs, is quite difficult and requires the presence of experts (McCabe, 2015). In turn, it results in lengthening the court cases and the additional costs, which does not contribute to the financial well-being of the defendants and plaintiffs (Radbill, 2013). Furthermore, the case supports the statement presented earlier, specifically the one related to the fact that the musicians often are not aware of their rights as well as the possible ways of protecting their works. At the same time, the situation cannot be viewed unambiguously. On the one hand, should Anne Bredon have taken measures to protect her work back in the 1960s, the recent series of lawsuits would have never taken place. However, such actions on her part would have also made the emergence of the other song versions that are loved by the listeners impossible, potentially reducing the richness of the modern music as a whole. Moreover, the situations similar to the one described in the case often help the people to become aware of the less known musicians and composers, which can be considered a positive turn of events. Thus, it is possible to say that the problem of copyright infringement and protection in the music industry is quite relevant even despite the presence of numerous laws and regulations that protect the musical products both at the local and global scales. The poor legislation knowledge, the lack of clear borders between the inspiration and appropriation and the other similar factors often make it difficult for the original content creators to protect their music from the offenders. Thus, the search for the optimal solution to this issue must become one of the primary goals not only for the governments but also the musicians in the long-term perspective.