Cover songs, remixes, and copyright: an empirical examination of music prosumers’ interactions with copyright and related enforcement regimes on YouTube
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date09/06/2023
This thesis, via two separate phases of empirical research, provides novel empirical insights into how users who create and disseminate derivative musical works, to YouTube – prosumers of music – understand, perceive, experience, and interact with the regulatory frameworks they encounter at different stages of their dissemination journeys. Specifically, this thesis focuses on two distinct, but prominent areas of music prosumption – cover songs and remixes. In phase one, a web ethnography was conducted of online discussion forums used by prosumers of music (N=1762 posts). In phase two, an online questionnaire was administered to a selection of such prosumers (N=90) followed by email interviews with participants who were willing to share further insights (N=7). The central contribution of this thesis is fourfold. First, through an examination of prosumers’ knowledge and understanding of copyright and related enforcement regimes, this thesis shows that copyright knowledge varies amongst prosumers of music, but that generally prosumers of music lack copyright knowledge. This thesis ultimately finds that prosumers’ lack of copyright knowledge often negatively impacts how prosumers interact with copyright and related enforcement regimes throughout their dissemination journey. Second, through an examination of prosumers’ encounters with rights clearance, this thesis reveals that prosumers who attempt to secure rights clearance, describe the process as time consuming, confusing, and expensive. However, a lack of awareness of the need to do so, coupled with YouTube’s operationalisation of copyright and related enforcement regimes, translates to prosumers of music typically circumventing traditional rights clearance processes. Hence, this thesis reveals a gap between law in action and black letter law, in the context of rights clearance, which enables a more welcoming route to publication for prosumers of music. Third, this research explored whether informal norms regulate any of the decisions prosumers of music make whilst uploading their works to YouTube. This thesis reveals that informal norms regulate some but not all decisions prosumers of music make whilst uploading their works to YouTube. Such informal norms operate alongside copyright regulatory frameworks, complementing them. Fourth, existing studies show that rightsholders often overzealously enforce their rights against UGC online. However, by examining music prosumers’ encounters with copyright enforcement regimes on YouTube, this thesis demonstrates that prosumers of music generally experience a more welcoming route to publication. This research took place whilst the European Union was undergoing a review and subsequent modernisation of how online intermediaries like YouTube are regulated, which resulted in the Digital Single Market (DSM) Directive. Although the findings of this research provide novel insights into how prosumers of music interact with copyright and related enforcement regimes which predate the DSM Directive, some of its findings provide practical insights into what effect, if any, the DSM Directive is likely to have for UGC that is disseminated online.