Sometimes it seems as if today’s musicians spend as much time defending themselves against copyright infringement lawsuits as they do writing new music. Reading about suits against Ed Sheeran, Nicki Minaj, Pharrell Williams, Robin Thicke, and a host of others, one might be tempted to think that contemporary pop artists are just uncreative copycats.

The real issue, however, is that pop musicians simply may be running out of creative space. And this problem is being exacerbated by the behaviors of what we might call “legacy” interests—parties who own copyright interests in already-created songs but who won’t be making any new music.

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