Credit where it's due
: music, copyright and social authorship

  • Paul O'Hagan

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The monology of individualised intellectual property rights and their commodification as alienable, transactable assets are, as Jason Toynbee and R.J Coombe have suggested, untenable as a basis for comprehending the production of popular culture. Following Foucault, the interrogation of authorship as an arbiter of socio-cultural exclusion, calls for new approaches to inquiries into cultural production, which can take account of collaborative compositional processes and social authorship while remaining aware of the contingencies and conditionalities of participation. This thesis offers a practical exposition of the legal concession ‘joint authorship’, and calls attention to its individualistic ruse, which prioritises transactive processes over collective management of common resources, effectively negating what Margaret Gilbert has called the ‘plural subject’. As such, it is argued that ‘joint authorship’ constitutes the imposition of an anti-commons and is therefore corrosive to the kind of collective governance infrastructure which Elinor Ostrom has prioritised for collaborative networks and the management of common pool resources. Moreover, in positing a Hegelian recognition of non-waivable inalienable collective ‘rights’, which acknowledge communitarian participation in the production of culture, augmented by a Marcusian refusal to transact and assign intellectual property to third parties, this thesis counters to the notion of received transactional individualism, which has rendered copyright an instrument of capital, wrought to facilitate dispossession and to legitimate the erasure of contribution in respect of intangible cultural resources. Through engagement with social authorship as a mode of understanding which privileges copyright articulated as a lived experience, this research has innovated a methodology by wedding T.W. Adorno’s Negative Dialectics to Edith Stein’s Relational Phenomenology, representing a new implementation of Critical Theory, offering fresh insight into the poietic of cultural production and a critique of the societal affordance of legal and economic entitlements to culture conceived as property.
Date of AwardMay 2023
Original languageEnglish
SponsorsDepartment for the Economy
SupervisorAdam Melvin (Supervisor) & Frank Lyons (Supervisor)


  • Creative industries
  • Critical theory
  • Cultural studies

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