University of Southern California

Free the Music: Rethinking the Role of Copyright in an Age of Digital Distribution

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Note by David Nelson
From Volume 78, Number 2 (January, 2005)

“We are at a moment in our history at which the terms of freedom and justice are up for grabs.” Every major innovation in the history of communications – the printing press, radio, telephone – saw a brief open period before the rules of its use were determined and alternatives were eliminated. “The Internet is in that space right now.”

The technology of the Internet has revolutionized communication and information distribution throughout the world. The direction of this revolution, however, will be determined in large part by how the law chooses to regulate this new medium.

Currently, one of the most important debates over the Internet involves the future of copyright law. The outcome of this debate will likely determine whether, as Stanford Law School Professor Paul Goldstein argues, property rights will extend “into every corner in which people derive enjoyment and value from literary and artistic works” with “a price tag attached to each use,” or whether, as Thomas Jefferson advised, ideas will “freely spread from one to another over the globe.”

This Note examines the issue of copyright as it pertains to recorded music and demonstrates that copyright protection for recorded music can no longer be justified as necessary for the promotion of artistic creation.

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