Monday, August 08, 2016

Music notation patent, especially value to African-American music: a disturbing history


Here’s a case where maybe a patent is actually good, and should be extended – and the patent holder can’t afford it.

Justin William Moyer has a Washington Post story Monday morning , “Chasing a dream: A Maryland church keyboardist struggling to make ends meet says he has invented a method of notation that can help reclaim black music.”
 
The artist is Tim Kimbrough, a music teacher in suburban Maryland, who invented a “scroll’ (read top to bottom) system of notation that makes it easier to notate some popular (especially “African”) music, and would even allow quarter tones or micro tones.  One would expect modern classical composers of “practical music” would find this useful.

The Post story has a detailed illustration of how the notation works.  The US Patent 6977334 has expired, so the system is apparently in “public domain” (“It’s free”) not earning any income.
So some patents are good and necessary, even for artists.