Music (and Musicologies) in the 21st Century. Copyright of Oral-Tradition Music: a New Ethnographic Issue

Island of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice
plus Jan, 2527 2018
Music (and Musicologies) in the 21st Century
Copyright of Oral-Tradition Music: a New Ethnographic Issue

The issue of copyright has long been a subject of interest to ethnomusicologists, given that for a long time the international regulations did not provide particular guarantees for works that are the result of the oral tradition and shared creativity. In Italy, Diego Carpitella had already raised the issue in the 1970s, when he suggested how to find solutions to protect oral-tradition music involving the SIAE (the Italian copyright collecting agency) and, so also recognise the economic rights of the performers-creators of that kind of music. International organisations, such as UNESCO and the IMC, also reflected on possible solutions without arriving at satisfactory results, despite the numerous resolutions adopted at various international meetings, not least because similar kinds of resolutions have rarely been applied in the past. In the 1990s and 2000s, with the impetus of World Music, a new line of thought emerged, especially in the United States, aimed at protecting and recognising, also economically, the rights of non-European musicians on the record market and of mainstream artists performing popular music. It was pointed out how digital sampling and diffusion on the Internet was an enormous potential resource but also a great risk. In 2001, moreover, the issue in the context of World Music was tackled by the IISMC International Ethnomusicology Seminar curated by Francesco Giannattasio.


Today these imbalances have been partly attenuated in a situation that is, however, still confused with inadequate national and international regulations. The question is now being couched in new terms compared to the past, also as regards the relationship between musicians and researchers. Until recently, researchers raised the question of protecting musicians, unaware of the mechanisms underlying the distribution of copyright resources. They argued for the recognition of authorship even for musicians who do not write down music. But now the contexts in which oral-traditional music is performed pose new ethnographic questions for researchers. In fact, the musicians themselves “register” their music or the traditional names of their music with the copyright offices, thus triggering off unprecedented new trends throughout the country.

The seminar sets out to reflect on these trends by considering how, in the circulation of increasingly spectacularised, heritagised and mediatised music (including so-called traditional music), musicians claim authorship, at times “taking possession” of collective assets shared by their own community. If, on one hand, they are justified in selling on the music market, given that their role has long been undervalued or not recognised, on the other, their individual action can lead to strong disagreements and contradictions in their community, given that what they perform is the result partly of their creativity and authorship but also partly a shared heritage, based on models of collective creativity and the circulation of oral-tradition music that folk experts and ethnomusicologists have been studying and describing for a long time. From this point of view, the role of researchers changes radically due to the fact that they often deal with musicians’ individual demands and strongly contrasting contexts in which they are sometimes even asked to intervene. This raises the new ethnographic issue mentioned in the title of the seminar: how and to what extent can oral-tradition music be considered a product of individual creativity rather than of the community that shares its performance practices? What developments are there at local level as a result of these new trends? In what ways and in what forms, can carefully weighted regulations be introduced to recognise authorship and economic rights for the creative process and the re-elaboration of a tradition by musicians, yet at the same time safeguard a community’s rights over its common Heritage?

Seminar Programme:

Thursday, 25 January 2018

9.30 am-12.30 pm

Giovanni Giuriati


Giovanni Giuriati and Beniamino Palmieri

The Tarantella of Montemarano and its Rights

Mariano Fresta

On Intellectual Property in Folklore. The case of the Bottari of Macerata Campania

2.30-4.30 pm

Ignazio Macchiarella

“A cada bidda su suo”. Issues of “Music Ownership” in Sardinia

Friday, 26 January 2018

9.30 am-12.30 pm

Naila Ceribasic

Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage – a Route Towards Protecting Collective Intellectual Property Rights?

Federica Mucci

The International Protection of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, Still “Alive” in Communities and Individuals, from Difficulties of Definition to the Protection of Creativity: Constantly Recreated Music

2.30-4.30 pm

Lars-Christian Koch

Copyright and the Construction of Sonic Identities – Reflections on Scientific Sound Archives

6.30-8.00 pm

Concert by I Solisti di Montemarano and Pastellesse Sound Group Bottari and Tarantellas. Carnival Music in Campania

Free admission while seats last

Saturday, 26 January 2018

9.30 am-1.30 pm
Italo Mastrolia
Oral-Tradition Music: Lacunae in the Legal Protection of the Intangible Cultural Heritage and Possible Remedies, from Theoretical Definitions to the Historical Pattern


Silja Fischer

IMC’s Five Music Rights and Copyright, a Holistic Approach