I Hear America Suing:
Music Copyright Infringement in the Era of Electronic Sound
Presentation and Cocktail Reception
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Twentieth-century developments in audio recording, copying,
and broadcast technologies thoroughly altered not only how popular music is
distributed and consumed, but also how it is created. By the 1960s sound
recording technologies had become so refined, ubiquitous, and economically
accessible that they, and no longer music notation, had become the primary
means by which popular songs were created and documented. Audio technologies democratized authorship of
popular music, but also led to the gradual lessening of original primary
musical parameters (melody in particular) in many popular genres.
Paradoxically, despite this general
diminishment in original musical expression, the number of copyright
infringement claims has grown inexorably, decade-by-decade, since the
1960s. The basis of these claims have also
grown remarkably attenuated, often involving nothing more than a similar sound
or a common word or two shared by two songs.
Charles Cronin traces the developments in sound technology,
popular music, and music copyright infringement litigation in the twentieth and
twenty-first centuries. He argues that if
courts today were more cognizant of the deep changes in the creation and
musical content of popular songs since the Tin Pan Alley era of the early
twentieth century, they might more confidently dispose of most music copyright
infringement claims by dismissal or summary judgment.
Charles Cronin is lecturer in law at the University of
Southern California. He was a fellow at Yale Law School's Information Society
Center and is now an IP law consultant to the fragrance and flavor industry in
the US and EU. B.M. Oberlin; J.D.
American Univ.; M.A., Ph.D. Stanford; MIMS, Berkeley.
The presentation will be followed by cocktail reception. Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.