Intellectual Property Law in the News

| May 7, 2019

I’m sure some of you are listening to music to help keep yourself awake while reading about intellectual property law. Well, for this discussion, listening to music can directly help you learn about intellectual property law. For this discussion, we will try to liven things up a bit by looking at some cases involving “music plagiarism.” While some of the legal issues in this discussion are very specific for the music industry, keep in mind that the purpose of intellectual property protection is pretty much the same across industries. The idea is to encourage innovation and creativity by allowing the creator to earn a profit from their new creation without fear of their ideas being stolen. But intellectual property laws are also not supposed to be so severe that they will discourage others from innovating in the same industry. For this discussion, we will look at the music industry, since this discussion should be a tad bit more lively than a discussion about cases such as the highly technical disputes between Samsung and Apple over advanced smartphone technologies.

One of the most widely covered intellectual property law cases in recent history is the lawsuit by the family of Marvin Gaye against the team of Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke over their hit song “Blurred Lines”. Marvin Gaye’s family won a judgement of over $7 million, with the jury agreeing that “Blurred Lines” was a copyright infringement of the Marvin Gaye song “Got to Give It Up.” Accusations and lawsuits over music plagiarism are nothing new, but some legal experts were surprised by this verdict, and believe it will greatly widen the extent of intellectual property protection for songwriters for future cases.

For this discussion, find a case of a copyright infringement case involving a song. You can choose the Marvin Gaye case if you are a really big fan of “Blurred Lines” or “Got to Give It Up.” But so everyone does not choose the same songs, it is strongly preferable that you find another case. Whatever your favorite genre of music, you can probably find some kind of dispute, as anytime there is a big hit song it is common that other songwriters will claim their own song ideas were stolen. Another recent case involved an accusation that Sam Smith copied a song by Tom Petty. If you prefer the golden oldies, there are many famous cases, such as Chuck Berry versus the Beach Boys or a lawsuit against George Harrison alleging that he ripped off the song “He’s So Fine” by the Shangri-Las. These are just a couple examples, so do some research and find a case that interests you.

Once you have found a good example, carefully listen to the two songs that were in dispute. Post the links to YouTube if videos are available to share with your classmates. Then discuss the following issues:

  1. On first listen, what was your immediate reaction? Do the two songs sound so much alike that you are not surprised that a lawsuit was threatened or filed? Or are you puzzled that there was a dispute?
  2. Based on listening to the songs and what you read about the legal dispute, what lessons do you think you have learned about intellectual property law? Cite one of the readings from the background materials, or another article or book from Trident library on intellectual property law.

While this discussion has focused on the very narrow area of music copyrights, what implications does this have for the wider business community? Is very strict enforcement of intellectual property law such as in the “Blurred Lines” case something that encourages or discourages creativity and innovation?

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2018DISC
Strategic management assignment
Intellectual Property and Insurance

Category: Completed Assignments

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