Modern copyright law has strayed from its original purpose as set out in the Constitution, and is ill-equipped to protect and foster new forms of artistic expression. Since the last major amendment to the Copyright Act, new art forms have arisen, particularly “mashup music.” This type of music combines elements of other artists’ songs with other sounds to create a new artistic work. Under modern copyright law, various courts treat this type of music inconsistently, creating uncertainty among mashup artists and stifling this new artistic expression. In addition, copyright law as applied to music unduly favors primary artists, sacrificing the Constitutional Copyright Clause’s focus on preserving the public domain. This Note discusses the history of mashup music and its increasing popularity in the United States, as well as the relevant history of copyright law. This Note then discusses current safe harbors that exist under copyright law for secondary artists, and analyzes why mashups do not fit within these safe harbors. This Note concludes by recommending that the fair use exception be expanded to protect mashup artists by adding a safe harbor for “recontextualized” or “redesigned” artworks.
The full text of this Note is available to download as a PDF.