A Gramscian Analysis of the Public Performance Right

AuthorLouis D'Alton
A Gramscian Analysis of the Public
Performance Right
 
 : This chapter briey traces the historical establishment and
expansion of the public performance right in musical works within those
countries united by the Anglo-American legal tradition, with a focus on the
Canadian experience. Viewing the issue of the public performance right in
musical works within a critical Marxist frame, the essential problem leading
to the creation of the public performance right in musical works is seen as an
outgrowth of the struggle between the author/composers and the dominant
publishing interests which dictated their employment and terms of recom-
pense. Within this frame, the analysis utilizes Antonio Gramsci’s theoretical
conceptions of hegemony to provide the structural basis on which the analy-
sis rests. Ultimately the struggle is seen as an example of the dominant pub-
lishing interest’s eective absorption of the desires and goals of the creator
interests, but reiterated in such a way as to achieve the primary goals of the
publishing interests within an evolving hegemonic order.
 : Ce chapitre trace brièvement l’établissement historique et
l’expansion du droit de représentation publique des œuvres musicales dans
les pays de traditions anglo-américaine, avec une attention particulière por-
tée à l’expérience canadienne. En étudiant, d’un œil marxiste critique, la
question de la représentation publique des pièces musicales, le problème
essentiel menant à la création de ce droit est vu comme la conséquence
de la lutte entre les auteurs-compositeurs et les intérêts dominants des
éditeurs qui ont dicté leur emploi et les termes de leur compensation. Les
228 •  
concepts théoriques de l’hégémonie utilisés dans l’analyse d’Antonio Grams-
ci fournissent une base structurelle à cette analyse. Ultimement, cette lutte
semble un exemple de l’absorption par les intérêts dominants des éditeurs,
des désirs et des buts des intérêts des créateurs, réitérée de façon à ce que
les objectifs premiers des intérêts des éditeurs soient atteints à l’intérieur
de l’ordre hégémonique en évolution.
The success of performance rights organizations has been responsible for
the massive growth of copyright collectives, particularly in Canada. Prior to
the 1988 Phase I revisions to the Copyright Act,1 there was only a single type
of copyright collective authorized under Canadian law those collecting
on the public performance right in music. Since the Phase I revisions came
into law, more than thirty-four copyright collectives2 have been registered
with the Copyright Board of Canada. With thirty-four registered collectives,
Canada has more than double the copyright collectives of any of the key
nations listed in Daniel Gervais’s 2002 study.3
Despite the fact that a public performance right in music was rst ex-
plicitly granted under the 1842 Copyright Act,4 it was actively ignored by the
industry of the day, and as a result, the rst performance right collective in
the United Kingdom, the Performing Right Society, would not be formed
until 1914. This chapter views the subsequent adoption and successful ex-
pansion of the public performance right as an example of a hegemonic pro-
cess as delineated by Antonio Gramsci.
Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937) was a leading member of the Italian Commun-
ist party as well as a highly critical journalist. Gramsci was arrested by the
Italian Fascist state in November of 1926 and would remain in prison until
1 Copyright Amendment Act, SC 1988, c 15.
2 Copyright Act, RSC 1985, c C-42, s 2 [collective society]. A copyright collective is an agency
created under the terms of the Copyright Act, which collects royalties or licensing fees on
behalf of registered copyright owners.
3 Daniel J Gervais, “Collective Management of Copyright and Neighbouring Rights in
Canada: An International Perspective” (2002) 1 Can J L & Tech 21 at 38 (table 3).
4 Imperial Copyright Act of 1842 (UK), 5 & 6 Vict, c 45.

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