Episode 012

What went wrong with copyright?









Owen Kelly



December 10, 2021


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In the third episode Of Friday Number 5 Owen Kelly mused about the limitations that copyright laws impose on musicians’ abilities to use other music as starting points for their own work. He promised to think this through in a more structured way, and this represents his first attempt at doing just that.

In this episode Owen looks at the history of copyright from the invention of printing in 1476 to the creation of the Berne Convention in 1886. He asks when Mickey Mouse will step into the public domain, and points to the ways in which the copyrights laws benefit intermediaries much more than creators. He looks at three different ways in which the current laws fail everybody, writers and readers, musicians and listeners.

Finally he looks at the recent work of Damien Riehl and Noah Rubin who have developed a computer program that has recorded every possible melody (all 68.7 billion of them) via MIDI to a hard drive, and then made them available in the public domain.

He asks what conclusions we might draw from this.