Though federal law in the United States provides for the protection of artistic property, including music, African-American blues musicians, since the appearance of their first commercial records in the 1920s, have generally not received their due. Part of the problem came from the difficulty of squaring the discrete notions of folk composition and artistic property in those early days. But the exploitation of black artists was largely attributable to common practices in the record industry whose effects were multiplied in this case by the near total defencelessness of the victims. Imitations and cover versions led to a veritable despoliation of black talent which has only belatedly received legal compensation and public recognition.
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