The research project Mashup Music, Copyright, and Platform Regulation (MASHED) examines the tensions and feedback mechanisms that have emerged between mashup music, copyright, and the algorithmic regulatory systems of internet platforms.
This project aims to unpack the important consequences of divergent understandings of how to protect the larger political principle of freedom of expression and to provide insight into the ways in which the concepts of authorship and ownership are understood and actualized in contemporary society.
- To examine mashup music and mashup culture, including mashup producers’ perspectives on music creativity, mashups, copyright, and online platforms.
- To examine the extent to which mashup music corresponds to copyright law’s exceptions.
- To analyze the regulatory systems of online platforms and position these systems in relation to the law.
- To examine the extent to which platform regulation impacts the practices of mashup producers, including the aesthetics and distribution patterns of mashups.
Frequently asked questions
What are "mashups"?
The term “mashup” (or “mash-up”) implies that pre-existing material has been mashed together into a new composite. Yet the term is usually used more narrowly. For the purpose of this research project, we define mashups as musical productions which are primarily based on samples of already existing musical recordings, and in which the samples are generally recognizable.
What is so interesting about them?
What makes the mashup a particularly interesting case for this project, more than any other kind of participatory remix or any historical version of musical borrowing, is that:
- It almost exclusively relies on pre-existing music, which speaks to a particular form of creative expression and places it in the contested area of copyright law.
- Copyright practices in the field of music have been particularly conservative in relation to other artistic forms of appropriation.
- The mashup represents a political sharing economy that distinguishes it from more conventional types of cultural production with economic incentives, as it is usually distributed free of charge via user-generated platforms such as YouTube and SoundCloud.
- Its very existence is currently threatened by the increasing implementation of algorithmic regulatory systems that scan content for alleged copyright infringement.
Moreover, mashups pointedly cut across binary descriptive categories such as professional/amateur, underground/commercial, production/consumption and challenge, in turn, prevailing notions of artistic authorship and ownership.
This case, then, has broad generalizability with regard to generating insights into the consequences of the tension between creative practices and copyright regulation – a tension that currently impacts the creative industries in important ways.
Why are you doing this research?
Thanks to the affordances of new digital technology and user-generated Internet platforms, we have, during the last decade, witnessed an expansion of mashups.
Mashup music consists primarily of samples from prior musical recordings, and this places this music within the contested area of copyright law because they challenge copyright’s aim of granting the owner of an artwork exclusive rights to its use and distribution.
Yet this music is also a creative expression in its own right. The enduring tension between sample-based music and copyright holders has culminated in online platforms’ use of algorithmic monitoring systems to detect the use of copyrighted material at scale.
These systems have the power to either block sample-based music or allow for tolerated uses. As such, these systems may herald either the end of musical mashups and remixes or a change in the previously negative perspective of the copyright industries towards sample-based music.
The issues at stake in the mashup scene renew the long-simmering debate among academics, copyright stakeholders, adherents of case law, and practitioners concerning what forms of musical borrowing should be defended under various copyright exceptions, and what forms of regulatory practice are legally justifiable.
This project will delve into this historically unique crossroads in order to produce insight into the profound consequences of a lack of conceptual clarity regarding originality and creativity, authorship and ownership, and how to protect the larger political principle of freedom of expression.
Who is doing this research?
The research group consists of scholars with a background in musicology/popular music studies, media and communication studies, and law. As such, the research group reflects the interdisciplinary design and multi-methodological approach of the project. Read more about the project members.
Are you going to talk to any mashup producers?
Yes. We will learn from people who make or used to make musical mashups through an anonymous online survey and through qualitative semi-structured interviews. The aim of the survey and the interviews is to learn more about mashup music and mashup culture and to improve our understanding of how copyright regulations on online platforms impact on creativity and music-making.
How is this research funded?
The research project Mashup Music, Copyright, and Platform Regulation (MASHED) is funded by the Research Council of Norway through its Young Research Talents scheme (project number: 275441), and supported by RITMO at the University of Oslo through its Centres of Excellence scheme (project number 262762). As academic researchers with a specific interest in music, we seek to generate original, independent knowledge about the role that music plays in the world. That means we do not have any connection to any part of the music industries, and we do not have any connection to any national or international law enforcement agencies.
How long does the research project last?
The research project MASHED runs from August 2018 to July 2021.
When and where will results be published?
The outcomes of the research project will be published articles in peer-reviewed academic journals and in books and/or book chapters with the leading academic publishers. The project members will also present their findings at international academic conferences, seminars, and guest lectures. All publications will be displayed here.