Since its birth in 2002, the Copyright Infringement Project has rapidly evolved from a useful archive to an important academic and professional tool. As the preeminent source of information on music copyright infringement disputes and decisions, the website has the potential to address the interests of a broad user group that includes attorneys, academics, musicians, journalists, and public at large. Thus far, the website has been referenced in various legal journals, academic magazines, national newspapers, online encyclopedias, and frequently visited blogs. The website is being used, not just as a starting point in research, but also as a means to obtain unique and in-depth information regarding copyright infringement cases. As the website expands, however, we are interested in learning more about what makes it useful for different users, so that we can more effectively satisfy the various and unique needs of the user-community. The following is a sampling, though by no means comprehensive, of how we believe the site has been used thus far.
Among various user groups, the site has been a valuable resource for journalists, as well as the public at large, in keeping abreast of noteworthy disputes. For instance, journalists from the Richmond Times Dispatch, and MSN.com, among others, referenced the site when reporting on Coldplay’s copyright infringement dispute regarding “Vida La Vida.” The popular dispute garnered much media attention, and the Copyright Infringement Website proved to be a valuable source of information as it was the only website to provide both legal documentation regarding the case as well as actual clips of the musical works in dispute.
This unique feature is perhaps why Lisa Napoli, a writer for the New York Times, hailed the website as “[b]etter than a textbook, and used by professors around the world,” noting that “the site offers clips of music to bring the disputes to life.” Indeed, the fact that the website allows access to both rare and popular works, is valuable for not just the parties involved in these disputes, (as noted in this MSN.com article), but also for the journalists who strive to most accurately report on them.
Musicians, likewise, have found the website to be a helpful tool. The website is regularly referenced in informational websites and blogs, devoted to those in the music industry or profession. Most commonly, the site is offered as a tool in learning about protecting one’s own musical creation. For example, Suit101.com referenced the site in its article “How to Copyright a Song.” Other sites like UltimateGuitar.com and eHow.com include it in their summaries of copyright infringement and music plagiarism. In addition, the Association of Independent Music Publishers, along with Music Industry Newswire both reference the site in their respective websites. The Society for Music Theory has also mentioned the website in it’s talk-list, conducted through emails. Music scholars, theorists, and composers have found the website useful when discussing older and rarer works.
For musicians, it seems, the Copyright Infringement Website is a useful in educating themselves regarding their rights as artists. Learning about precedent cases as well as the standards involved in what is regarded as a “copy,” can offer guidance when protecting their own work. Additionally, it can be a place for musicians, as well as other artists, to contemplate issues surrounding their profession. James Boyle of P2PFoundation.com, a website devoted to peer-to-peer technology and society, commends the Copyright Infringement Website for being “an extremely useful educational site that gives examples of cases alleging musical copyright infringement, including the relevant sound files.” He explains that the website is unique in that it “allow[s] you to experiment with [music and copyright] issues online.”
The website has also proven to be noteworthy among scholars, academics, librarians, as well as law and university students. The Villanova Law Review referenced the website as an example of “a web-based, searchable, browseable, topic-specific databases of statutes, cases, and other materials,” an increasingly effective and popular tool among scholars and academics. David G. Epstein, for instance, was able to use the site to find two musical clips--“He's So Fine” and “My Sweet Lord”—when illustrating the difficulty in explaining the difference between equitable subordination and recharacterization, in an article published in the Practising Law Institute’s Commercial Law and Practice Course Handbook Series. Though the article discussed issues in bankruptcy law, the website was still useful and accessible to him when researching his cleverly crafted analogy. In addition to academic journals, the website has been mentioned on various online encyclopedias as well as magazines. Wikipedia.com references the website on two occasions—once in an article devoted to Judge Kevin Duffy, whose opinion on Grand Upright v. Warner is housed in the website, and also, more broadly, in another article devoted to music plagiarism.