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Journal of the
Music & Entertainment Industry Educators Association
Volume 11, Number 1 (2011)

The Origins of Mechanical Licensing of Musical Compositions

Serona Elton
University of Miami

This research was funded in part by a research grant from the Music & Entertainment Industry Educators Association.

Introduction

For well over one hundred years, we have enjoyed listening to music by the use of a mechanical device, beginning with music boxes and progressing through piano rolls, wax cylinders, shellac, vinyl, 8-track tape, cassette tape, compact discs and now, digital files. The use of these devices, and the reproduction of the musical compositions embodied within them, has been of paramount significance to the owners of music copyrights and the companies manufacturing the devices. Copyright law today generally requires the manufacturer of one of these devices to obtain authorization from the owner of the copyright in the musical composition embodied within in order to not commit copyright infringement. This type of authorization, referred to as a mechanical license, continues to be the subject of a great deal of attention.

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