The evolving nature of the music industry has brought on a number of important developments in music copyright law over the last few years. On September 12, the Bar Association of San Francisco’s Intellectual Property Section sponsored a panel with noted song copyright litigator Richard Busch, local entertainment lawyer David Given, and senior IP counsel for SAP’s Global Intellectual Property team Lesley Boveri. The event was co-sponsored by the Copyright Society’s San Francisco Chapter.
The panel’s discussion ranged from the Blurred Lines case, involving the Marvin Gaye heirs, to the status of ongoing infringement litigation against streaming giant Spotify. Mr. Busch’s description of his work in the Blurred Lines matter (representing the Gaye heirs) was the highlight of the discussion and raised several interesting issues, including the evidentiary decision in the Blurred Lines case that limited the protectable elements of a pre-1976 song to the notation in the lead sheets—written transcriptions of musical compositions filed with the Copyright Office. This issue was just addressed in the appeal of the Led Zeppelin copyright infringement action alleging Stairway to Heaven infringed the song Taurus by Randy Wolfe. See Skidmore v. Led Zeppelin (No. 16-56057 9th Cir. Sept. 28, 2018).
The panelists also discussed the consequences of huge changes in the music industry, for example, the rise of streaming services and its effect on record sales, as well as the impact on the amount of copyright infringement lawsuits being brought, including Wixen Music Publishing, Inc. v. Spotify USA Inc., 17-cv-09288 (C.D. Cal. filed Jan. 2, 2018) (seeking $1.6 billion in damages). Overall, the dialogue endeavored to answer questions about the future of the music industry, as well as to lay the groundwork for hope for that industry’s creative community.
For more events sponsored by the BASF IP Section, please visit the section page at http://www.sfbar.org/cle/sections_intellectualproperty.aspx
About the author:
Sebastian Kaplan litigates disputes concerning trade secrets, trademarks, copyrights, and complex commercial transactions. He represents clients in both federal and state courts and has successfully resolved claims at all stages from pre-litigation cease and desist letters through trial.