A Request from the UK: Song-writing and Copyright in Prison

About the Guest Blogger: Jacqui Norton is a PhD candidate at De Montfort University, Leicester, United Kingdom.

Writing from the UK, I am currently studying for a PhD which is researching socially excluded young people and adults who participate in song-writing workshops. Although the research is not limited to the prison environment, I am very much interested in this area, as in addition to working as a part-time senior lecturer at a university and a music industry consultant, I have also had experience of running an accredited course relating to the UK music industry at various prison establishments.

My aim is to track individuals who have participated in song-writing workshops and although there is evidence that soft skills, such as gaining confidence etc. can be achieved from attending such an activity, I am interested in the general song-writing skills and the copyright and moral rights element too and whether these skills have helped the individual at a later date. My interest in these areas reflects my initial practical work experience in music publishing and working closely with professional songwriters.  In addition to this I am also interested in finding out what motivates prisoners/young offenders to be part of such activities, such as a music workshop.

Whilst researching, I came across a policy document on the internet from the State of Washington Department of Corrections which relates to Patents, Copyrights and Royalties.  The document, revised 2010, states that any offender who is “starting or planning to start a project that could be Department sponsored, and will result in a work/invention that can be copyrighted or patented, will initiate a written inquiry to the Superintendent prior to starting the project.”

I am unclear as to whether this policy is still valid and am currently waiting to hear from the relevant parties, but also interested in understanding how the system worked, how many participants took up the opportunity to apply and if any were ‘successful’ in obtaining royalties for the prison establishment and themselves from their music.

I am interested in corresponding with anyone who may have written a similar policy, or in fact been involved in any way with a similar programme.  If you feel you can assist and would like to be part of my research please contact me via email in the first instance: jnorton@dmu.ac.uk

Thank you for your time.


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