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Copyright litigation: increasingly common, complex

Intellectual property adviser and media contributor Krista L. Cox makes an interesting comment on timeless musical masters like Mozart and Beethoven in a recently penned piece examining the contours and complexities of artists’ copyright protections.

And that is this: Those prodigious creators might be far less productive if they were alive and working these days. They would likely be spending more time in court fending off copyright infringement claims than they would be scoring new masterpieces.

It’s a litigious world we live in, with that perhaps being nowhere more apparent than in the realm of musically linked spats pitting claims of independent creation versus ripped-off borrowings.

Look around, says Cox. Seemingly, there is always some high-profile court contest featuring competing claims of independent authorship. Cox underscores that such courtroom sparring often involves the claims of “dueling musicologists” who wax on regarding the nuances of notes, chord sequences, the “feel” of a musical piece and so forth.

There has always been borrowing, of course. The central question in copyright law is this: How much is too much? Cox wonders whether we’re approaching the point that so much sound has already been created that there will always be some basis for a claimer to allege misappropriation. She references a “chilling effect” owing to an inability “to create new music without inspiration from existing music.”

There are stated legal limits as to how far a plaintiff can go in alleging infringement. The so-called “fair use” doctrine is one of them, as is the basic tenet that legal protection cannot be sought for ideas.

As complex and contentious as copyright litigation might sometimes be, the innate human drive for self-expression and creation ensures that who-authored-what battles will always exist.

Questions or concerns regarding works of authorship (literary, musical or otherwise) and their protection or infringement can be directed to attorneys at a proven intellectual law firm.

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