Friday, May 02, 2008

music, ownership, sustainability

10 days from quals, all I can think about is my research so that's what you faithful readers (or visitors) are going to get. But at least my academic interests include my dj interests (if you read to the end you'll see it I promise)!

Starting with something from my master's thesis which I'm still happy with (although you can see the influence of a couple years in the English scholarly environment, which did nothing for my brevity, although it did plenty for my ability to be understatedly sarcastic:

"A danger, which many scholars seem to run, is conflating “secure” with “individual” property rights. One might excuse them as merely following Garret Hardin’s example in his near-legendary “Tragedy of the Commons” article whereby he explains how common land will be overgrazed, as individual needs are pitted against those of the community as a whole. The appeal of this model has tended to obscure the fact that, as investigated empirically with respect to commonly held land, it has not been borne out by evidence.
The model’s lack of explanatory power the context in which he first applied it (communal land tenure) can be traced to a widespread tendency to equate individual property rights with secure rights, or to see “common” = “unmanaged.” Hardin himself acknowledges this in a later essay, saying his model applies only to unmanaged common land (which removes it somewhat from his original context). Hardin rephrases his model as the “tragedy of the unmanaged commons” --which might better be expressed as the “tragedy of open-access.” The difference between unrecognised systems of management, and a lack of them, is important in the study of LDCs, where the assumptions of economists (local and foreign) about what are recognisable or secure property rights have often been grievously mistaken."

examples for these statements ARE available, by the way!

posting it now because I am STILL irritated by the popularity of Hardin's basic framework and its application all over the place in a way that masks it political nature (hello, the dude was a ecologist and pretty much a malthusian , he wasn't an economist and he certainly wasn't a historian or sociologist or anthropologist, all of whom could have provided empirical examples that contradict what he initially called "the commons").

also, I love that Carol Rose (in a piece called "The several futures of property") made this point even more political. She's so rad! An excerpt from my prospectus draft:

"Rose's most interesting point is based on the undercounted nature of the value generated by these systems. Although limited-commons systems (shared households for example) are quite prevalent, historically they have not been recognized as a standard, traditional or feasible property arrangement in much legal analysis. Empirical examination of those limited commons suggests that it is not only the unfamiliarity of the property claim that prevents it from being recognized, but also the specific social status of those claiming property: for example, wives suffering violence or other deprivation of rights in the home were not until very recently given legal standing as to property claims in the home or their own bodies. The complex practices of access, control, and labor in the home did not fit well with legal categories, and those categories map onto hierarchical social categories. Thus, the complexity worked to systematically deny claims to the lower-status member of the household. Alongside interesting political questions about the function of property rights, the question of social status suggests the cultural assumptions underlying property claims: some scholars have made arguments about the lack of control black musicians have had, in the legal realm, over their music: for example ASCAP did not allow black members in its early years, but even more specifically the practices of many historically black musics like blues and jazz have a similar complexity that deprives musicians of legal standing w/r/t copyright. Or, we could look at a recent example where a Jamaican artist in the Dub genre sued for control over music he had made. Dub is a genre of music where the site of creativity is the studio mixing board, rather than the composition or the use of more traditional instruments or voice – a dub producer experiments with sonic effects like echo and reverb and delay, and the raw material is the recorded pieces of an existing song. Tellingly, one of the statements made by the record label's managing director disputing Hopeton "Scientist" Brown's claim of ownership was that "Scientist was claiming to own copyrights in songs and recordings as a result of being the mixing engineer… we always felt these claims were ridiculous."

(speaking of property claims, if you quote any of this in any formal publication, please attribute me, and I'd love a linkback if you quote any of this on a blog. I'm not interested in making a legal claim about my rights so much as a practical, ethical and political one. As a beginning, interdisciplinary scholar, with a political bent, I'm more in the non-dominant group in academica than a dominant one. So having my name associated with my words if they spread helps to me in lots of ways that Carol Rose hints at above. I feel more strongly about my thesis and prospectus than I do about my regular blogging, although credit and linkbacks are always respectful, helpful, and interesting. in the light of recent controversies in the feminist blogosphere this is fresh in my mind)


  1. I'm so going to quote you w/o attribution... ::)

  2. can you imagine defending mixing creativity in a court? That would be fun.

  3. fwiw, despite the stupid claims by greensleeve's against scientist's creative contributions, it's worth noting that the judge -- persuaded by expert witness and dub scholar, michael veal -- accepted that an engineer could be a creative agent with legit claims on sharing in the profits. that said, the case was decided on contract technicalities, so it didn't really matter, except that perhaps this still creates some sort of precedent.

    even so, that greensleeves could make the argument it made says a lot about prevailing ideas.

    then again, greensleeves is dead. long live VP.

  4. thanks wayne! I didn't know michael Veal was the expert witness there! unfortunately it can't be precedent in an official sense because the case is "unpublished." I could only get info on it from newspapers and people I know, the arguments are not written up..