Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Kanye West, Ludacris win copyright trial

Here is a link to the AP account on this judgment:

According to the article, "At issue at trial were the words 'like that,' repeated more than 80 times in each song, though one song precedes the phrase with 'straight' while the other precedes it with 'just.'"

What is confusing here is that the article does not provide much context or legal description. Copyright law provides very little aid in helping to determine if two works of art are similar or not. Cases like this come down to a determination of facts.

This is most famously seen in a case like Bright Tunes Music Corp. v. Harrisons Music, Ltd. 722 F.2d 988 (2d Cir. 1983), where George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" was found to infringe upon The Chiffons' "He's so Fine." There, the repetition of several notes in "He's so Fine" was also in "My Sweet Lord," with a little variation. There is much reliance on the expert testimony in the decision. The paintiffs in this case won because the music was so similar and because of the popularity of the plaintiffs' song "He's so Fine."

This leads to the issue of discussing the facts in the current West-Ludacris case. The problem is that the plaintiff's witness was dismissed, and so one side had more expert testimony than the other, which could certainly influence a jury during a trial with complicated issues as most copyright cases have. The plaintiffs in the current case, I.O.F., do not appear to be as popular in current popular music as The Chiffons were at the time. Also, one wonders if the art form - rap - has an effect. Is a pattern of a rhythm in the West-Ludacris case the same as the notes in the "My Sweet Lord" case? Does popularity matter?

We will try to update you more as more information can be found on the case.

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