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Journal of the Music & Entertainment Industry Educators Association

Volume 11, Number 1 (2011)

The Origins of Mechanical Licensing of Musical Compositions

Serona Elton
University of Miami


During the nineteenth century, certain key inventions came into being which changed how music was enjoyed by listeners, such as the music box and the player piano. These new mechanical uses of music were not specifically provided for in the copyright laws of the day. Numerous meetings and hearings were held in the United States, United Kingdom, across Europe, and at several Berne Conventions, where potential amendments to existing laws were considered. Many factors were weighed as the option of providing authors with the exclusive right to control mechanical reproductions was contemplated, including a looming monopoly in the United States and Europe. This article examines the discussions as they unfolded and resulted in the copyright laws of many countries, as well as the Berne Convention, being amended to include this new right, along with a limitation on the right which took the form of a compulsory mechanical license.

Keywords: copyright, mechanical licensing, music licensing, compulsory licensing, music business, music law, Berne Convention

Elton, Serona. “The Origins of Mechanical Licensing of Musical Compositions.” Journal of the Music and Entertainment Industry Educators Association 11, no. 1 (2011): 13-38. https://doi.org/10.25101/11.1

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