Copyright law, governed by the Copyright Act, is based on utilitarian theory, which balances artists’ interests in ownership of theircreations with the public’s interest in accessing and enjoying such creations. Copyright law provides for rights for creators of sound recordings, which include master rights—the recording artist’s copyright in the recording. Taylor Swift has brought the concept of master rights into the forefront of pop culture. In June 2019, Swift’s masters—the original sound recordings of her songs—were sold, and she publicly aired her dissatisfaction with the sale, as well as with overall premise that artists do not have a complete right of ownership over their masters. In this Note, I analyze the rhetoric of Taylor Swift and other musicians and determine that many artists, based on their rhetoric in expressing their views of ownership rights under the current copyright regime, seem to favor a property rights model of copyright law, in which the creator of a work is entitled to ownership of it. Based on these observations, I suggest some solutions which propose changes to copyright law and state law, inspired by previous solutions posed by other scholars, that would place artists’ rights to ownership and control of their work at the forefront of the laws’ purpose. This, in turn, will spur creativity and create a copyright regime that is fairer to artists and listens to what they want.
YOU BELONG WITH ME: RECORDING ARTISTS’ FIGHT FOR OWNERSHIP OF THEIR MASTERS,
Nw. J. Tech. & Intell. Prop.