Copyright laws have always been a real bear

Ted Goia’s Substack newsletter is enlightening – with truly startling frequency – about things I probably should have known about already. From yesterday’s post:

The most extreme case of music copyright comes from Elizabethan England. Here the Queen gave William Byrd and Thomas Tallis a patent covering all music publishing for a period of 21 years.  Not only did the two composers secure a monopoly over English music, but they also could prevent retailers or other entrepreneurs in the country from selling “songs made and printed in any foreign country.”

If anybody violated this patent, the fine was 40 shillings. And the music itself was seized and given to Tallis and Byrd. They probably had quite a nice private library of scores by the time the patent expired.

But that’s not all. Byrd and Tallis’s stranglehold on music was so extreme it even covered the printing of blank music paper. That meant that other composers had to pay Tallis and Byrd even before they had written down a single note. Not even the Marvin Gaye estate makes those kinds of demands. [link mine]


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