Ava Swanson


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This study emerges from the era of the Music Modernization Act (2018), a sociopolitical moment which sees the United States government and the music industry at large collaborating to update music copyright procedures to meet the demands of the digital age. The research itself was contracted by the United States Copyright Office in collaboration with Berklee Valencia as a means of improving the Copyright Office’s outreach to the American independent music scene. The purpose of the research was to explore what DIY musicians (mis)understand about copyright, the Music Modernization Act, and the newly-established Mechanical Licensing Collective. To address the research questions, a hybrid of qualitative focus groups and quantitative survey techniques were utilized. The results demonstrate a fundamental lack of understanding about copyright amongst independent musicians due to structural barriers. Additionally, unhelpful attitudes and widespread misinformation further alienate these creators from the copyright process. However, the research findings posit solutions like barrier reduction and cultural shifts to enable DIY musicians to access the copyright space. More research is required to further determine how to engage independent artists in copyright, and the current research lays a framework for how to move forward in that process.

Publication Date



Valencia (Spain) Campus


Copyright; Independent Musicians; D.I.Y.; Music Modernization Act; Mechanical Licensing Collective; Intellectual Property

Do You Copy? How D.I.Y. Songwriters Decipher Copyright in the Digital Age