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Can You Name that Tune? Minor Drop, Major Infringement

DRI For the Defense

August 2020

Authors: Anthony B. Corleto, Kara Thorvaldsen, Nicole Haimson

Anthony Corleto (Partner-Stamford | White Plains), Kara Thorvaldsen (Partner-Boston) and Nicole Haimson (Associate-Albany) collaborated on an article titled “Can You Name that Tune? Minor Drop, Major Infringement,” which appeared in the August 2020 edition of DRI’s For the Defense. The authors explain the musical maze from Williams v. Gaye (“Blurred Lines”) to Skidmore v. Led Zeppelin (“Stairway to Heaven”) and Gray v. Perry (“Dark Horse”). Alas, access often is easily proved in our digitally connected world, so the inverse ratio rule (when the showing that defendant had access to plaintiff's work is very strong, the bar for showing similarity between the works is correspondingly lower) “unfairly advantages those whose work is most accessible.” Only time will tell whether the trend toward a more precise and objective analysis of copyright infringement in musical compositions will continue. In the meantime, readers should be equipped to provide an informed opinion on the next copyright infringement claim to hit the pop music scene!

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