I visited Eugene Ryan's site recently, and before I could really dig into his site (which has been substantially updated since my last visit), I impulsively followed a link to this site about Jazz theory. I'm no music scholar, and while a lot of what I read in the sample chapter was interesting, much of it eluded me.

The concept that I really dug was in the section about Copyright law. The author says:

The legal position of the jazz artist’s work is nothing short of astounding. Put briefly, jazz does not exist. All that exists in music copyright are ‘compositions’.
Other art forms exist in Western culture, and are understood. The series of paintings of the west face of Rouen cathedral that Monet made from his draughty open window above a lingerie shop between 1892 and 1894, for instance. Each of these is understood by everyone to be a unique work, and of course, a work by Monet. In jazz terms, though, the unique work would be said to be the cathedral, and the royalties for each painting would go to the architect. If they were reproduced in a book, the printer would get a royalty too. In all cases, Monet would get nothing. This is because legally the song is a composition, a set text, and if a jazz musician performs the song, then in law, a composition is being played. If there is any recognition of the uniqueness of what the jazz player does, it is in the performance being called an ‘arrangement’ of the composition. If someone transcribes the solo though, it is the transcriber who gets the copyright, not the musician. That is what I mean when I say that the jazz musician’s art does not exist in law.

Powerful thinking. What if all of us (improvisational musicians) were recognized for the uniqueness of our contributions, rather than bound by copyright law as it is today?