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School of Law

Legal regulation of the music industry

Course Code:
Course Not Running 2014/2015
Unit value:
Taught in:
Full Year

This course considers the legal regulation of the music industry in an era in which it faces high levels of uncertainty. For the most part, the course will: 

  • focus on the legal mechanisms (in the UK, and where relevant, the US) which exist to promote the creation and dissemination of music, in particular, intellectual property rights. 
  • examine the historical development and current form of these rights, noting their limitations, and reflect on the ideas, assumptions and ways of thinking that they embody. 
  • attempt to identify the forms of cultural production that these mechanisms privilege, and those they marginalise. 
  • consider the ways in which creation and dissemination of music are linked through practices of contract law, in particular, publishing and recording agreements. 
  • attempt to identify the tensions which the law reflects between the conceptualisation of music as a cultural expression, and economic asset. 
  • examine the various modes of exploitation of music, both historically and in the era of digitisation, and how the law has developed to enable the holders of copyright to control dissemination of music.

In so doing, we will look at the music industry's response to the development of broadcasting, the mechanisms developed to control and measure the non-material dissemination of works (particularly public performances), as well as strategies developed to control home-taping and latterly peer-to-peer copying.

The course is designed to fit with the current LL.M programme. It is consistent with the intellectual spirit of the programme and complements a number of other courses such as:

  • International and Comparative Copyright Law; 
  • Copyright in the Middle East and North Africa; 
  • Comparative Culture in Commercial Law
  • and Intellectual Property and Development.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

The aims of the course are:

  1. to introduce students to the legal environment in which the music industry operates, in particular the legal scheme that commodifies cultural artefacts, transforming communication and action into rights and properties;
  2. to reflect upon the historical origins of this legal environment and the extent to which it is able to accommodate diverse forms of musical production practice;
  3. to consider how intellectual property rights are generated, assigned, and enforced in one specific sector of industry and identify the peculiar ways in which these general rights are characterised in the music industry;
  4. to consider how the problems faced by the music industry have been solved, through legal regulation or through administrative means, and the lessons that the experiences of the music industry can teach other copyright-based industries and copyright law in general;
  5. to consider whether the existing legal arrangements operate adequately or efficiently in the commercial and technological environment in which the music industry finds itself today.

At the end of the course a student should have a good knowledge and understanding of

  1. the availability, scope, and content of relevant intellectual property rights,
  2. agreements between songwriters, recording artists and exploiters (publishing companies and record companies); and legal controls on these agreements;
  3. collective mechanisms for the administration of rights, in particular the right to record music (the MCPS), the right to perform and broadcast music (PRS) or recorded sounds (PPL); and the legal regulation of these bodies;
  4. enforcement mechanisms against pirates, counterfeiters, and consumers;
  5. the problems and opportunities raised by digitisation, and legal responses;

Method of assessment

Assessment weighting: 100% examination No coursework may be resubmitted