Who owns the music?
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times have changed, Seeger says. "We're in the middle of a
huge sea change in the way people think about indigenous knowledge,"
says Seeger. He notes that, on the international level, the 1994
General Agreement on Trade in Services requires individual countries
to establish their own copyright laws. Some countries that previously
had few laws in this area are now striving to protect their traditions.
Brazil, for example, is currently pushing for a law to protect valuable
indigenous knowledge knowledge that would encompass both
indigenous music and the native understanding of pharmaceuticals
derived from plants and trees. Major drug companies, however, are
lobbying against the law.
issues won't be resolved quickly or easily.
legal issues will have to be solved by lawyers," says Seeger.
"The ethical issues [raised by researchers and scholars] will
have to be dealt with by changing attitudes and behaviors."
the very least, some combination of obtaining a musician's permission
and making attribution may constitute a respectable solution.
going into the field today routinely seek written or taped verbal
permission before recording music. And many are backtracking to
obtain permission for recordings already made an often daunting
task. For research comparing African and African-American fiddle
music, DjeDje is in the process of seeking permission from nearly
60 musicians whom she interviewed and whose music she began recording
nearly three decades ago, long before she realized she should obtain
permission. Last summer, she wrote scores of letters to African-American
musicians and their families in southwest Louisiana, where zydeco
is a popular musical form, and in the Appalachian states, where
they play "old-time" string-band music, "but a lot
of them don't even remember who I am. One woman wrote back to me,
'My husband has been dead for the past five years and now you're
writing me asking permission? No, you cannot have any permission.'
Yet, I know that were this man, an important black fiddler, still
alive, he would want to be included." DjeDje is determined
to keep up the pursuit, she says, because "I don't want to
be someone who is known for exploiting individuals."