After a bit of a break, I’m back to continue reporting on the results of my survey, “Perception and attitude of musicians toward copyright”. The previous post talked about the level of familiarity of respondents with the Music Modernization Act of 2018. This post and the following ones will discuss the respondents’ opinions about copyright.
There has been surprisingly little written in the academic literature about what musicians know about copyright, and what they think about it. The most in-depth studies were published only a few years ago:
- Thorley, M. (2012). Music industry aspirants’ attitudes to intellectual property in the digital age. In A.-V. Kärjä, L. Marshall, & J. Brusila (Eds.), Music, Business and Law: Essays on Contemporary Trends in the Music Industry (pp. 91–116).
- Phillips, T., & Street, J. (2015). Copyright and musicians at the digital margins. Media, Culture & Society, 37(3), 342–358.
- Street, J., & Phillips, T. (2017). What do musicians talk about when they talk about copyright? Popular Music & Society, 40(4), 422–433.
Before that, the focus was mainly on the music industry (i.e. the companies) and consumers, but not so much on the creators, especially the ones who aren’t superstars. The 2011 Hargreaves Report out of the UK (Digital opportunity: review of intellectual property and growth, a review of intellectual property laws in light of the changing environment) included some feedback from individual musicians, but the majority of stakeholder submissions were from organizations. As Phillips and Street (2015) observe, “We know little or nothing about the ‘ordinary musician’ or indeed about why musicians — whatever their fame or lack of it — take any particular position on copyright.” (p. 345)
The Phillips and Street studies were conducted in the UK with British musicians, and addressed UK copyright law. I wanted to expand the inquiry to the U.S. environment.
I asked respondents who they thought should be aware of copyright issues in music. Not surprisingly, the majority of respondents chose every item on the list.
Some of the “other” responses were: general public, dancers, film makers, music consumers, and those in the field of law. It’s interesting to note that 18% of respondents did not think it was important for music students to be aware of copyright issues.
In terms of demographics, educators were significantly more likely than expected (if the outcome were random) to respond that educators and students should be aware of copyright issues in music. Likewise, students were more likely to respond that students should be aware of copyright issues.
Those in the rock and classical genres were also more likely than random to say that educators should be aware of copyright issues. However, this may have to do with the correlation in the sample between being an educator, and being of the classical genre.
The next question in the survey is in the form of a Likert scale: series of statements are presented, and the respondent indicates how “in agreement” she is with the statement.
The first statement is: Musicians and songwriters should focus on their craft rather than copyright issues. The respondent could choose “Strongly agree”, “Somewhat agree”, “Neither agree nor disagree”, “Somewhat disagree”, “Strongly disagree”, or “Don’t know”.
Only 10% of respondents strongly agreed with this statement, while 26% somewhat agreed (totalling 36% who agree). Those who disagree in some way totalled 43% (25% strongly and 18% somewhat). Twenty-one percent had no opinion one way or the other.
I also checked for any demographic variations. There was a large difference where respondents strongly agreed with the statement when we look at length of time in the industry.
The responses show that more participants disagreed, either strongly (25%) or somewhat (18%), with the statement than agreed, strongly (9%) or somewhat (25%). The rest (21%) had no opinion one way or the other.
Among those who strongly agreed with the statement, 78% of them have been in the industry 10 years or fewer (Pandora era), 22% 11 to 29 years (Napster era), and none of them strongly agreed who have been in the industry for 30 years or more (Pre-Internet era).
If we want to flip the data to see where each generation stands in terms of agreement, we get the following results:
Within each grouping, there was not a very large difference in whether they agree or disagree, or how strongly, and the differences were not statistically significant.