Who owns the music?
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owns the music is a question of particular concern to archivist
Louise Spear of UCLA's Ethnomusicology Archive, a collection of
some 10,000 field recordings by hundreds of researchers and collectors.
The archive's recordings don't leave the building; they may only
be listened to in the facility and may not be duplicated without
the explicit permission of the musician or collector.
of the questions I hear all the time," says Spear, "is,
'What good is it if I can't copy it?' There is an assumption that
if the music exists, anyone and everyone has a right to have it."
with representatives of Hollywood television or movie productions
can often prove particularly challenging. "They come in with
requests like, 'We're doing a movie that takes place in Africa,
and we want authentic Pygmy music. Give me something that's not
copyrighted so that I can use it quickly and easily and cheaply
for my movie.' "
Spear asserts, it simply doesn't work that way. Rather, "they
need to contact the collector, ask for permission and work out an
agreement." And in many cases such requests are impossible
to fill under any circumstance; some pieces of music in the collection
are of a religious nature and are meant to only be listened to in
an appropriate context, for example, and some are pieces that are
intended to be heard only by women.
popular notion that anything "ethnic" is up for grabs
anything that might fall within the categories of so-called
world music or roots music also is proving to be a problem
for scholarly researchers, Seeger says. "I'm concerned by the
growing perception among indigenous people that 'someone is getting
rich on our music.' It is becoming harder to be an ethnomusicologist
with a tape recorder today than it used to be because people are
always suspicious, even when we have no commercial intentions."