Radboud Sounds - Roma
Radboud Sounds - Roma

Who do melodies belong to?

Have you ever noticed that many successful pop tracks are incredibly similar? If you master four specific chords, you'll soon have hundreds of different songs in your repertoire. In addition, each music genre has recurring themes and artists build on each other. Take Lady Gaga's Born This Way, for example. Those who listen carefully will automatically hear Madonna's Express Yourself.

22.35 – 22.50 uur | Paarse Zaal  

But where is the line between a comparable melody and shameless copy-pasting? And can a melody or guitar riff actually be “yours”? Legal scholar Roma Leuyerink takes us into the world of suspicious lyrics, matching melodies, and unadulterated musical theft.


Music whose creator has been dead for more than seventy years is in the public domain. Anyone can use it freely. But with newer music, copyright must be taken into account. For example, a song protected by copyright is usually not allowed to be used as background in, for example, a YouTube video. Due to copyright law, large platforms such as YouTube and Facebook are obliged to remove images containing protected music.

That is of course nice for the authors who cannot possibly monitor such use themselves, but unfortunately the rules of copyright are not always used for the purpose for which they are intended. Consider, for example, police officers who use music to prevent images of arrests from being distributed on the internet or governments who invoke copyright to prevent the disclosure of confidential documents. Among musicians, too, we have recently seen an increase in unfounded infringement claims, the sole purpose of which is to profit from the success of others.

Curious how that works exactly? Come and listen to legal scholar Roma Leuyerink and dive into the question: "Who do melodies belong to?"

This Soundbite is in Dutch.

About the speaker

Roma Leuyerink is a lecturer and PhD candidate at the departments of Civil Law and Intellectual Property Law at Radboud University. After working as a lawyer in corporate law for several years, she is now focusing her dissertation research on the bottlenecks in the Copyright Contract Law Act, which was introduced in 2015.

Radboud Sounds

This program is part of Radboud Sounds. The festival where science meets music with lectures, dance, live music and more on Friday 12 May 2023 in Doornroosje, Nijmegen. Come and celebrate Radboud University’s 100th anniversary. Radboud University scientists from various disciplines shed their light on music and science. Come and listen, dance, enjoy and sharpen your mind on the effect of music. Compose your own program and see the world of music from a different viewpoint.

Contact information

Would you like to know more about the Radboud Sounds programme, or do you have other questions or comments? Please contact info [at] reflects.ru.nl

Organizational unit
Radboud Reflects, Faculty of Law
About person
Leuyerink, R. (Roma)