namroud-gorguis-FZWivbri0Xk-unsplashThere's much made of the importance of copyright for creators, and for good reason: without any sort of legal protection or ownership rights, the act of creation itself would be meaningless, with the ultimate profit and benefit for a work ultimately going to whomever has the resources to both exploit it and muscle out the original creator. Why record a song if a more popular artist could simply come along and record their own version or sample your work without permission and reap all the benefits? So goes the thinking for those taking a more strident view about the application and enforcement of copyright, and given how we consider people with a big ideal looking to capitalize on it within the American ethos, there's probably a fair base of support for that position.

But is that view doing more harm than good within the music business? That's the question posed by Mike Masnick in Techdirt, and it's an opinion that has growing support from those willing to consider the issue long enough to develop a more nuanced view. He lays out his case in the piece, citing the growing number of copyright suits in the music industry bases solely on the notion that a song was "inspired" by another song and is thus guilty of infringing upon that work, irrespective of whether there's actual evidence of a relevant sequence of notes lifted from one song to be used in this new creation. The growth in lawsuits has been fostered by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and its push over the years to stake out ever-more-extreme positions on what copyright is and means in music and thus for the artists it represents.

What the RIAA fails to recognize, as Masnick deftly illustrates, is that artistry of this type is all about drawing inspiration from what they're hearing, and in working from those same inspirations and with the same tools it seems almost inevitable that there would be similarity and overlap occurring contemporaneously without any effort to steal or copy another's work. Or perhaps the RIAA and its member bodies recognize the danger but also recognize there's money in these lawsuits, consequences to the industry as a whole be damned. The music industry wouldn't be the first to ignore long-term consequences for short-term profit.

All of this suggests that the music industry as a whole is due for some sort of reckoning, lest it become a largely litigious pursuit, with music as a side hustle to pay the bills. Short of lawmakers or regulatory bodies stepping in to alter copyright law or interpretation to cut down on these lawsuits, they'll undoubtedly continue apace because no one wants to be the first to back down. It's just a question whether music as a business can survive the onslaught.

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