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Losing one's mind: bootlegging and the sociology of copyright

By Lee Marshall


This thesis offers a sociological analysis of authorship and copyright. It analyses how a specific model of authorship (characterised as 'Romantic') has come to form the foundation for understanding copyright even though such an understanding does not have any basis in the original purposes of copyright. This argument is then illustrated with a case study of an area of popular music known as 'bootlegging'.\ud \ud The thesis begins with a discussion of the early history of copyright law. It is argued that, rather than being for the benefit of authors, copyright was initially intended as a means of securing public education. On the basis of this discussion it is argued that copyright is a relationship between three interests - authors, public and publisher - but that the rhetorical uses of authorship prove especially critical for understanding copyright as a social phenomenon. The thesis goes on to investigate why Romanticism and copyright should be so intimately linked, relating copyright to notions of individually and immortality, and what problems this understanding of authorship causes. In particular, it is argued that the public interest, the intended beneficiary of copyright law, has been diminished because of the dominance of Romantic authorship. The thesis then offers some alternative conceptualisations of both creativity and copyright.\ud \ud This argument is then illustrated by a case study of the popular music industry. This section of the thesis begins by examining the dominance of Romantic ideals within rock music ideology and discusses the 'functions' of Romanticism for both the music industry and copyright industries more generally. The case study looks at the phenomenon of bootlegging (the commercial release of live performances and outtakes by individuals other than the rights holders) as an exemplar of the trends under discussion. The case study is structured around the question of why bootlegging is viewed as a problem by the legitimate record industry when it is of minimal economic impact. It is suggested that the answer to this puzzle is that bootlegging poses an explicit challenge to Romantic authorship. However, the thesis concludes that bootlegging not only contests but in its own way also reproduces the Romantic idea of authorship

Topics: KD, ML
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