Highlight text to annotate itX
[Singing, La La La La]
This is the song “La Donna è Mobile” composed by Giuseppe Verdi for his opera Rigoletto.
I am sure you all recognize it. Back in the 19th century, Giuseppe Verdi knew he was on
to a winner so he actually kept the entire score secret and didn’t even show it to
the lead tenor until two days before the first performance of the opera. And he was right
to do this, because within a week of the first performance the sheet music was being widely
sold and transcribed and many people were putting on performances of this song, which
has now gone into the popular lexicon and is widely used by, for example, soccer fans
around the world.
What we have here is an argument about intellectual property. And the reason why it’s a complicated
argument is because there are three quite distinct and different ways of understanding
what intellectual property is. If we think that intellectual property is like any other
kind of property, then it must be—like other kinds of property—perpetual. That would
mean in this case that Verdi’s estate would still own the rights to the song, and this
would mean that if, for example, as a soccer fan you chanted a chant which used the tune
from this famous song, you would be violating the intellectual property of Verdi’s estate,
and you would be subject to penalties.
It would mean that anytime anybody anywhere wanted to use the music or to perform the
song, they would have to pay a royalty. If, on the other hand, the kind of intellectual
property which we are more familiar with was applied, the time-limited property of copyright,
then Verdi would have enjoyed a copyright in this song for a limited number of years
from the time of the first performance. It might have been for, say, 25 years. It might
have been for his whole lifetime and a certain number of years thereafter. But it would ultimately
have expired. Once the copyright had expired, it would then in fact become part of the public
domain and freely accessible for anyone who wished to make use of it.
The third possibility is the one which in fact did apply because there was no intellectual
property in Italy at the time when Verdi composed his opera. That is, as soon as he had published
the song by having a public performance in an opera house, it became freely available
for anyone who wanted to use it, to develop it, to amend it, to perform it. Now that,
in fact, was the case, but it did not stop Verdi from making a considerable amount of
money out of Rigoletto as with his other operas. That is because he was famous as the creator
of the song. He was able to play upon that, and many people would willingly pay a premium
to hear the song and other songs in the great opera performed by his own company or by people
that he gave official approval to. And so this suggests that in fact, given this real-life
case, there is no need to have that kind of intellectual property to encourage artistic
creativity of this kind.
I hope you really enjoyed this. Click on one of these links here to watch more and learn
more. If you want to do more, and more than watch videos, then click on these links here
to find out about more student opportunities.
[Singing, La La La La]
VOICE: Sir, it’s over. Everyone’s gone home.
DAVIES: Right. Okay.