Music copyright disputes have been in the limelight since long before George Harrison subconsciously ripped off the Chiffons. Yet, with copyright holders becoming ever more litigious, disputes over musical rights are revolving around increasingly narrow claims. While copyright law is meant to only protect the expression of an idea, rather than the idea itself, drawing the line is problematic and too often results in overly expansive definitions of “expression.” Lacking any objective definitions of the terms, determining when an idea becomes expression depends entirely on how one defines “art.” A recent case finding that pop-musicians Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams infringed Marvin Gaye’s 1970s funk song, “Got to Give It Up,” by copying the amorphously defined “feel” and “sound” of the song, exemplifies the stifling affect our law is having on artists. After examining the evolution of the circuits’ current, and varied copyright infringement tests, this note ultimately suggests a unified and more precise approach that utilizes not only experts who are well-versed in the specific genres of art at issue, but also analytic dissection that carefully considers only protectable elements when determining if works are “substantially similar.”
The Current State of Pre-1972 Sound Recordings: Recent Federal Court Decisions in California and New York against Sirius XM Have Broader Implications than Just Whether Satellite and Internet Radio Stations Must Pay for Pre-1972 Sound Recordings
Federal copyright law applies to sound recordings, but only to those fixed, i.e., produced, on or after February 15, 1972. Recordings produced prior to that date are subject to protection under the laws of the individual states until 2067. A recent spate of lawsuits has raised the issue of whether Sirius XM and Pandora’s digital radio services have the right to play pre-1972 sound recordings without permission from the owners of those records. The article discusses the cataclysmic potential impact that these cases may have on the current landscape of music licensing in New York and California and throughout the United States.
In October 2011, an online marketplace for reselling pre-owned digital music emerged. The founders of this online marketplace aptly named it ReDigi. In January 2012, ReDigi was promptly sued by Capitol Records for copyright infringement. Despite reassurances from ReDigi that its software required users to delete copies of the music before being allowed to sell it to another user, the court did not consider that safeguard relevant. The court found that the copyright holder’s reproduction right was being infringed regardless. This paper examines the intersection of the law and science in copyright law. Specifically, it presents a technical way of looking at the reproduction right by explaining how digital files are stored in data storage devices and transferred over the Internet by electromagnetic signals. Ultimately, this elucidation undermines the reasoning used by the court to reach its conclusion. While ReDigi modified its software implementation to skirt any further reproduction right problems, this paper suggests ReDigi should not have had to be so obedient.
In 2010, the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice approved the merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation, who combined to form Live Nation Entertainment. This paper revisits the Department’s antitrust analysis from its merger investigation in light of recent trends in the live music industry. It explores alternative theories of antitrust scrutiny that the Department either did not emphasize or omitted discussion of. Finally, it concludes that the merger posed a more significant threat to competition than the Department acknowledged, and that the remedies the Department imposed as conditions on the merger were insufficient to preserve effective competition in the relevant markets. The Department missed a tremendous opportunity to establish long-term competition in the nascent market for vertically integrated services. Artists, competing service providers, and ultimately consumers are worse off for it.
Music piracy is a major problem in this country, robbing the economy of billions each year. Andrew Berger argues that, if piracy is to end, large verdicts of the kind awarded in Sony BMG Music Entertainment et al. v. Tenenbaum may be necessary. In Tenenbaum, the first file sharing case ever to reach an appellate court following trial, the court held that the jury’s statutory damages award violated the Due Process Clause, even though the award was within the statutory range set by Congress. Berger discusses the ways in which this decision could negatively impact copyright enforcement for years to come.
The music of the artist known as Girl Talk consists of hundreds of pre-existing samples taken without permission from popular songs. As Girl Talk becomes more prominent, lawyers, journalists and bloggers have entered the debate regarding whether the use of pre-existing samples from copyrighted works is a “fair use” as defined in the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976.Brian Pearl analyzes the merits of the “fair use” argument in light of sparse and largely unsympathetic case law regarding music sampling and ultimately concludes that Girl Talk’s use of pre-existing samples fails to qualify as a “fair use.” The Article further proposes an amendment to the Copyright Act that would enable Girl Talk to record legally while fairly compensating the owners of the sampled works.
Josh Kaplan proposes an alternative business model to the “360 deal.” By taking advantage of finance structures more traditionally employed by software and tech start-ups, musicians can partner with equity investors to raise capital, while avoiding the obligations that often arise in contracts between record labels and artists.