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Drawing the lines: music copyright, cultures and creativity

Unpacking the structures and systems that perpetuate creative inequalities
What musical traditions do copyright laws protect and threaten? Do all musical cultures hold equal status in the eyes of the law? Hear from noted Harvard professor Ingrid Monson, who specialises in jazz and African American music.

Over the last decade a spate of legal action related to unauthorised musical borrowing has made international headlines and thrust music copyright into the global spotlight. From Down Under to Blurred Lines, court rooms around the world have been transformed into music lecture theatres in which the parameters of original musical thought have been charted, challenged and dissected.

In this Sydney Ideas event, renowned experts demonstrate how competing claims of ownership are worked out in the legal arena, and question whether such tests align with the historical spirit of popular music, rooted in a range of different cultures.

This event was co-presented with the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and held on Tuesday 8 October at the University of Sydney.

The speakers

Ingrid is Quincy Jones Professor of African American Music, supported by the Time Warner Endowment. She is a noted jazz scholar and ethnomusicologist, with a lifelong interest in the relationships among music, race, aesthetics and politics. Her book Freedom Sounds: Civil Rights Calls Out to Jazz and Africa addresses these issues in the jazz world of the 1950s and 1960s.

She also served as an expert witness for the Marvin Gaye family in the high profile Blurred Lines copyright infringement case in 2015. Her secondary interest in the music of Mali, which has led to her forthcoming third book The Voice of Kendougou, about virtuosic Malian balafonist Neba Solo. Her next project addresses the history of copyright and economic inequality in African American music.

Robert has a diverse practice, spanning all areas of commercial law. He is ranked in Doyle's Guide to the Legal Profession as one of Australia's leading junior counsel for commercial litigation and dispute resolution, and insolvency. He is ranked in the same guide as one of Australia's preeminent junior counsel in competition law.

Robert's practice extends to equity, trusts and property matters, regulatory proceedings, corporations matters and general commercial disputes. He also practices in the areas of public and administrative law.

Christopher is Senior Lecturer in Musicology and a jazz researcher interested in a range of topics. He is the author of John Lewis and the Challenge of “Real” Black Music (University of Michigan Press) and has published articles on jazz in film noir, the music of the Modern Jazz Quartet and the pedagogy of music research training.

He teaches several undergraduate courses:This is Music, Jazz Musicology and Analysis, Jazz Hipsters and Hegemony and African-American Music Inquiry, along with the postgraduate seminar, Researching Creative Process.

Event image: Photo by Spencer Imbrock on Unsplash

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