A cautionary tale of the "if this goes on..." ilk. The government, which includes all humanity, sets down a law that copyright and royalties apply to any musical theme, and with the aid of computers manages to keep track of them. Although at first this is seen as a boon to composers, as the centuries pass it becomes a burden as good, original music becomes impossible to create. For example, one composer who thinks he has created a delightful tune discovers to his pain that it is a recreation of a popular piece some decades earlier. Eventually the law is overturned and the databases erased in order to give humanity the freedom to create again.

The story was in the English language, and included in an anthology, perhaps in the 70s to 90s, though I can't be certain of this.

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    Sounds similar to Melancholy Elephants by Spider Robinson. – Zeiss Ikon May 3 at 17:17
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    Thanks to you both, but no, this is a different story on a similar topic. I have read quite a few of Spider Robinson's stories, though. – Invisible Trihedron May 3 at 17:21
  • How meta... If it's not Melancholy Elephants and not plagiarized, it's a strikingly fitting case of a very close story created by accident, down to the bit about the composer being crushed by the melody not being new. – Jacob C. Sep 16 at 22:59
  • What I remember, or seem to remember, is a story in which a database of copyrighted was created and was used for some centuries, I think in an interstellar context. Melancholy Elephants describes a database being quashed before it got started. It disturbs me that I know I read Melancholy Elephants when it was fresh (probably in 1985), and didn't think of it while writing the question. But I'd rather leave the question open a while longer before closing the case. – Invisible Trihedron Sep 17 at 0:17

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