The objective of this resource is to make universally available information about music copyright infringement cases from the mid-nineteenth centur​y forward.  The Purpose page gives a thumbnail description of each area of the project's resources.

¶ On January 24th a bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced the Music Modernization Act, which addresses a longstanding claim by songwriters that they have been shortchanged by the application of the existing mechanical licensing scheme for musical works in the era of digital distribution. In what some see as a last-ditch effort to wring the greatest possible payout from deep-pocketed new music distributors, Wixen Music Publishing recently sued Spotify for $1.6 billion based on alleged infringements that occurred prior to the date on which the Music Modernization Act will likely take effect. (Wixen's purpose and utility is elusive: it doesn't "publish" music; it appears to be simply a paralegal "administrator" of songwriters' copyrights.) Lawyer/musician Niall Fordyce, a contributor to this site, provides another take on this lawsuit in this piece he wrote in connection with a Bloomberg Law article on the pending legislation.

On 6 October 2017 the Ninth Circuit in Pasadena held oral arguments in Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke’s appeal to vacate the district court determination that they infringed Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up” in their song “Blurred Lines”. The Ninth Circuit has posted a complete A/V recording of the session on YouTube:


  Perhaps the most intelligent and incisive encapsulation of the dispute occurred in the exchange between Judge Jacqueline Nguyen and Kathleen Sullivan, who represented Williams and Thicke (~56:00 in the recording). At this point they wonder whether allowing jurors in music copyright infringement disputes to hear recordings of the songs at issue would introduce unprotectable elements associated with performances, rather than the underlying musical works, thereby confusing them and compromising their evaluation of musical similarity.

In March 2017 the University of Colorado Law School and the University's Silicon Flatirons Organization held a conference "Blurred v. Bright: The Changing Analysis of Copyright Infringement in Music." A video recording of the conference presentations and discussions is available here. Some of the presentations will be published as articles in the Colorado Technology Law Journal. Here is a link to a draft of Charles Cronin's Seeing is Believing: The Ongoing Significance of Symbolic Representations of Musical Works in Copyright Infringement Disputes.

¶ Several amicus briefs have been filed in connection with the appeal pending at the Ninth Circuit in which Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams, et al. seek to overturn the jury verdict and monetary judgment against them in the district court case involving "Blurred Lines". All three briefs support the appellants' position, indicating not only broad concern about the deleterious potential of the jury verdict on innovation in the area of popular music, but also the widely shared view that the jury's verdict was based on personal antipathy towards the appellants, and flawed testimony of the Gaye family's musical experts that the trial judge should not have allowed the jury to consider.

• Amicus brief submitted on behalf of Musicologists by Los Angeles attorney Kenneth Freundlich: PDF

Amicus brief submitted by Public Knowledge, a Washington based public interest group: PDF

Amicus brief submitted on behalf of Songwriters & Producers by Los Angeles attorney Edwin McPherson:  PDF

Amicus brief submitted on behalf of the Institute for Intellectual Property and Social Justice, Rockville, Maryland:  PDF

Amicus brief submitted on behalf of Musicologists/Ethnomusicologists by Detroit & Little Rock attorneys Howard Abrams and Bernard Burk:  PDF


Patrick E. Savage, a Postdoctoral Researcher at Oxford University, specializes in comparative study of the world's music. He recently completed his PhD dissertation at Tokyo University of the Arts, in which he discusses how theories of biological evolution may be applied to our understanding of the evolution of musical works. In Chapter 4 he discusses how quantitative measurement of the evolution of melodies over time may inform and predict determinations of infringement in copyright disputes involving musical works. The discussion focuses on the well-known dispute involving George Harrison, as well as the more recent, and much discussed dispute over the song "Blurred Lines". Here is a link to the English language version of the dissertation filed in the Japanese Diet Library:  PDF




To readers using Macintosh computers: Most of the audio and video materials on this site are encoded as Windows Media files (wma). We plan to convert these files to MP3 format to make them more readily accessible on both PC and Mac platforms.  Meanwhile, you should be able to play the wma files using the VCL media player that can be downloaded without charge.




"Absolutely wonderful stuff...a unique and irreplaceable service to copyright students and teachers. Bravo"

Robert A. Gorman
Kenneth Gemmill Professor of Law, Emeritus, University of Pennsylvania Law School



"This is a great contribution to copyright scholarship and teaching."

Paul Goldstein
Stella W. and Ira S. Lillick Professor of Law, Stanford Law School