Call for Papers: Rethink Music Conference

November 8, 2010

Note: Our submission deadline has been extended to February 7, 2011. 

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, in collaboration with Harvard Law School’s Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law (“JSEL”), is pleased to announce a CALL FOR PAPERS, seeking policy proposals that advance the interests of music creators, consumers, and entrepreneurs through changes in existing law.  The Call for Papers coincides with Berklee College of Music’s upcoming conference, "Rethink Music:  Creativity, Commerce and Policy in the 21st Century," scheduled to be held in Boston and Cambridge, MA in April 2011.

Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution empowers Congress “to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”  In response, Congress created copyright, patent, and trademark law and thus established a framework to govern the protection and exploitation of creative works. 

The Internet has changed the game for the creation and distribution of such works -- particularly musical works.  New technologies have opened new channels for distribution and new revenue streams.  Artists have a wide array of tools at their disposal when creating music and communicating with fans.  Consumers have a diverse and expanding array of ways to connect with a diverse and expanding array of musical works.  But the Internet and digital technologies present undeniable challenges – piracy is rampant, traditional business models have been upended, and some find available digital music offerings to be overly restrictive, non-portable, or incomplete.  Against this backdrop, efforts to innovate in the distribution and delivery of music to consumers often bump up against the limitations of existing copyright and other laws.

The "Rethink Music" symposium will focus on economic and policy concerns that dictate the viability of creative industries. The event is designed to provide a forum for high-level deliberation by experts, with input from creators and stakeholders from across the spectrum, about the future of creative works, their distribution, and the laws that regulate them.  The event will aim to differentiate itself from the myriad of other music and intellectual property conferences by:  (a) focusing on law, economics, and emerging business models together; (b) extensively involving creators; (c) soliciting input from both within and outside of traditional music companies and organizations; and (d) inviting submission of policy proposals and business models.


In connection with the "Rethink Music" event, the Berkman Center and JSEL seek papers that propose changes to intellectual property or other laws that relate to the creation, production, distribution, performance, or other use of musical works.  

Papers will be selected from among those submitted by a committee designated by the staff of JSEL and/or by staff and/or Faculty Directors of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society and/or their designees (including representatives from other academic institutions and/or others with expertise in music or intellectual property business and/or policy). 

Up to four (4) authors whose papers are selected will be invited to present their work at the "Rethink Music" symposium.  Berklee College of Music will provide economy airfare and hotel accommodations for any authors invited to present at the symposium.  Up to two (2) papers will be considered for publication in JSEL.  The number of authors selected to present at the symposium and the number of authors to whom prizes are awarded will depend upon the quantity and quality of eligible papers submitted.  The Berkman Center and JSEL reserve the right, in their sole discretion, to decide that no papers will be presented at the Rethink Music symposium and/or published in JSEL.

The Berkman Center may contact authors of papers not selected for publication or presentation at the symposium regarding publication via another medium – e.g., online, via the Berkman Center website.


Each policy proposal submission will be evaluated based on, inter alia, the extent to which it meets the following criteria:

  • Each submission should explain the state of existing United States law in the area that is the subject of the proposal.
  • Each submission should identify problems and/or concerns with existing law in that area and the ways in which that law promotes or fails to promote the interests of various relevant stakeholders, including but not limited to creators and consumers of music.
  • Each submission should recommend a specific and discrete change or set of changes of existing law (e.g., a legislative amendment or modification of an existing regulatory framework). 
  • Each submission should explain how the change will impact various stakeholders, including but not limited to creators and consumers of music.
  • Each submission should offer commentary of the feasibility of such proposal, including strategic concerns relating to securing support for the proposal and the mechanics surrounding its implementation.

Particular consideration will be given to the author's ability to make a compelling case for the policy proposal advanced, including the ways in which that proposal would positively impact various stakeholders.  The feasibility of the proposal, the as well as the quality of the written product, will also be weighed heavily in evaluating the policy proposal submissions.


Submissions will be accepted from scholars and students (with a focus on legal scholars and law students) and/or others. Only unpublished papers will be considered, although papers may be posted on SSRN, ECGI, or similar working paper series.  Authors must be available to participate in the "Rethink Music" symposium in April 2011.


Submissions must be received by January 24, 2011 (UPDATE: Extended until February 7, 2011).  Authors will be notified of the results of the competition in or around late-February or early-March 2011. The "Rethink Music" symposium will take place in Boston and Cambridge in April 2011.


Submissions should adhere to the guidelines set forth for “Comments and Notes” on the submissions page at the JSEL website:  Each submission and any accompanying materials should be sent to JSEL as set forth in the JSEL submission guidelines, with a clear indication that the submission responds to the Rethink Music Call for Papers.  A copy of each submission and any accompanying materials should be sent to the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at

Last updated

February 8, 2011