A Legal Blog by Aaron | Sanders, PLLC


Has There Really Been Fallout from the Blurred Lines Case and What Can Be Done About It?

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due (or Demanded)

Last week, the Associated Press reported, “More and more, artists are giving credit” to the writers of pre-existing songs “in the wake of the ‘Blurred Lines’ case.” The main point of the article was that songwriters are taking a more cautious approach when they know they have at least been influenced by a particular song and have been giving credit to the writers of the older songs to play it safe. As evidence, the article cited the addition of the Gap Band’s “Oops Upside Your Head” to “Uptown Funk,” the addition of the massively awesome Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne to the credits for Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me”—completely justified, in my view—and the addition the two songwriting dudes from The Fray to the credits for The Chainsmokers’ “Closer” (a song I have never listened to until just now).

That’s hardly overwhelming evidence, particularly since at least two of the additions were really settlements of legal claims before litigation. I don’t know how the Chainsmokers dispute was resolved, but I doubt it was purely voluntary.

Songwriting credit is a big deal because it’s how songwriters get paid. Royalties for a song are divided among…

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Oracle v Google: The Jury Has Spoken, But What Did it Say?

Note: This post and those following rely on and are indebted to live-tweeting by Sarah Jeong and Mike Swift of the trial. Jeong storified the trial here. You can find Swift’s twitter feed here. I also reference the jury instructions, which you can find here.

Once a Year, Everyone Pays Attention to Copyright (and Finds Something They Don’t Like)

It’s been only a little more than a year since a jury has rendered a controversial verdict in a closely watch-ed copyright case. That case, of course, was the “Blurred Lines” case, which led much furrowing of brows and some gnashing of teeth about whether, if verdicts like this become a trend, songwriting will become too risky to pursue. While there is evidence that “Blurred Lines” really is part of a trend in music cases, songwriting is not doomed, as I explained at the time.

The jury’s recent finding of fair use in Google v. Oracle has led to some wringing of hands, knowing tut-tutting, and even some exuberance:
* All copyright in software is doomed, especially free software.
* It’s nice and all for Google, but everything is already terrible because APIs were found to be copyrightable and fair use is a poor…

The waters of Redwood Shores appear peaceful, but lurking, lurking, lurking... Photo by Hokan Dahlström http://www.dahlstroms.com

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The Silly Dispute Between Georgia and Public.Resource.Org: Are Statutory Annotations Even Copyrightable?

I Fought (for) the Law; Who Wins?

When I started law school, I had only the vaguest idea of what lawyers did. I figured it had something to do with arguing in front of juries and judges, writing legal briefs and contracts. That’s what I expected to learn in law school. I was in for something of a surprise.

One of the first classes I took was “Legal Research and Writing.” I assumed it would be about 90% writing and 10% research. This was because I thought “research” basically consisted of “looking stuff up.” Anyone could look up the law, I thought, but lawyers are just really good at it. I imagined the aisles and aisles of books in the law library consisted of reams and reams of “laws.” You just had to find the right one. Sure, I had heard of “cases,” because I had heard of things like Plessy v. Ferguson and Marbury v. Madison. I knew that somehow these “cases” helped determine the law, but surely either they were rare or they were codified somehow into something you could look up.

Oh, my sweet Lord, was I mistaken. The “law” wasn’t something you “looked up” at all. It was…

These "reporters" collect "published" judicial opinions in roughly chronological order. Photo by "Coolcaesar".

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Stay With Me on This Because Someone Won’t Back Down: Why Sam Smith Had to Settle

Different Similarities: What Does it Mean to Infringe Copyright?

Earlier this week, Sam Smith settled with Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne about a copyright claim that Smith’s “Stay with Me” (a lovely, lovely song) infringed Petty and Lynne’s “Won’t Back Down” (one of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ best known songs).

 

 

I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t make the connection myself when I just casually listening to “Stay with Me” on Lightning100, even though I’m a pretty big Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers fan. Smith’s song is slower and has totally different backing vocals. The two-phrase sequence in question plays a different role in both songs. In Smith’s song, it’s the main driving hook (a simple one, which shows off his vocals), whereas in the Petty/Lynne song, it’s more of an intro to the main chorus, which allows the song to ramp up its energy pretty quickly.

But once it was suggested that Smith might have gotten the two-phrase sequence from “Won’t Back Down,” I immediately saw it. Remove the backing vocals, speed it up a bit and drop the pitch a bit, and the two sequences sound almost identical. A lot of Tom Petty fans sure noticed.

To my ear, it…

This is Tom Petty. I'm sorry I couldn't find a picture of Jeff Lynne on Creative Commons because he's equally awesome.

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Federal Circuit Feeds Us Some Humble Pie: Oracle v Google Reversed

Humble Pie Taste Like Sawdust but at Least it’s High in Roughage

It’s fair to say that I was a little bit invested in the district court opinion in Oracle v. Google. I really thought it was a great opinion, thought it really helped clear the air about the vexed issue of copyright protection for computer programs—and I said so, both in a published article, and in a multi-part blog post (starting here).

So when it became clear that the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals was set to reverse the decision, I had to resist getting defensive. While my Twitter feed exploded, mostly in outrage, at the actual reversal, I put off reading the decision until I could read it fairly. The Federal Circuit might have been reversed by the Supreme Court five times out of five this year, on the very subject (patents) it is supposed to be an expert on, but that doesn’t make it wrong. And just because I had publicly supported the now-reversed trial court opinion, doesn’t mean I was right.

Most of the criticism that I read had mostly to do with policy. In essence, they contended that the Federal Circuit to be legally wrong because APIs should…

Buttermilk_Pie

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