Musicians’ ownership of their work a challenge

Glenn W. Peterson

People in California may be aware that copyrights are the legal way of protection an artistic work from being used or promoted by someone other than the creator. However, there are many complexities when it comes to the ownership of a piece or body of work, especially in the music industry. The road from writing a song to having it played on the radio can be long and winding and involves multiple parties, including record labels.

Pop music sensation Taylor Swift has recently made headlines for her response to the purchase of her former label by a company owned by a man who has been an adversary in previous situations, including those involving Kanye West. The purchase gives the music manager control over the original mixes from which all subsequent recordings are made for every song Swift recorded except for those on her newest album.

The body of work which has essentially been lost by the artist who created all of it spanned 11 years from 2006 to 2017. This situation highlights the challenges new artists face as they must balance the desire to have their work produced with the innocence and lack of power they have when it comes to negotiating with big labels.

Some artists today are choosing to bypass these labels even at the expense of mainstream popularity and success. The internet does make this possible as some musicians have gained some fame on channels like YouTube or on music streaming services. How the industry will evolve in the face of these challenges is yet to be seen.