Copyright Infringement is the taking of rights that a copyright owner has without permission:
- Right to create copies of a work
- Right to sell copies of a work
- Right to publicly perform the work
- Right to license the work
- Right to create derivative works of the original work
17 U.S.C. § 501
Sometimes, one work may infringe accidentally by being too close to a previous work; therefore, the infringement is caused by being a derivative work. How can one tell if the junior work is too close to an older work?
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 any new issue. The problem is that every person comes with his or her own experiences and biases, which could certainly influence a jury during a trial with complicated issues as most copyright cases have. Also, one wonders if the art form has an effect. Is a pattern of a rhythm in a rap song the same as the notes in the “My Sweet Lord” case? Does popularity matter?
Copyright Infringement is not a simple concept in law. If you need to speak to a copyright infringement attorney, please call Verna Law, P.C. at 914-908-6757 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.