Music Business Case Studies

Case Study 1

Does Curtis James Jackson’s aka “50 Cent” unlicensed uses of material from “It’s Your Birthday” constitute copyright infringement?

This case clearly shows that 50 Cent used the materials from “It’s Your Birthday” to prepare his song without the consent of the copyright owner. This is considered an infringement on the copyright laws. It is a case of music plagiarism which is regarded as the close imitation or use of the music of another author while representing the same as one’s original song, particularly without the consent of the copyright owner. 50 Cent used a similar tone, same melody, and same pitch and lyrics that were literally the same in most parts of the song. This is an indication of music plagiarism. Music plagiarism takes place in two different contexts – copying the musical ideas such as motif and melody or sampling (stealing a portion of one’s sound recording and reusing it in a different song without the consent of the owner). 50 Cent’s song “In Da Club” possesses bits of byting, sampling, and referencing to the original song by Campbell “It’s Your Birthday.” Under the copyright law of 1976, when a person writes a song, a copyright is automatically placed on the song. Copyright elements of a song include rhythm, melody, lyrics, and chord progression and any level of creativity that is owned by the author and protected by copyright. Music plagiarism is, therefore, an infringement on the copyright laws and may result in payment of an enormous fine, loss of rights to the song, or even face a jail term. In this case, the song by Campbell is similar to that of 50 Cent and the latter will be held reliable for copyright infringement.

Case Study 2

Does Celebrex’s unlicensed use of Bust Dat Groove constitute copyright infringement?

Celebrex’s unlicensed used of Bust Dat Groove does not constitute copyright infringement because drummers do not write music. Even though the plaintiff argues that the defendants infringed on their copyrighted sound recording of the Bust Dat Groove, their argument was based on the claim of copyright infringement the musical composition. The defendant does not argue that the plaintiff copied the disputed composition from a different work, but they say that the abundance if similar composition in other works shows a lack of originality. It is essential to note that originality does not suggest novelty because a musical work can be original even though it may have a close resemblance to other musical works as long as the similarity is accidental, and not as a result of copying. You might create a new bit or sound, originally from you not knowing that a different musician had composed the same. But if many elements of the song are related to different musical copyright, this cannot be called accidental. This case appears to have a genuine dispute of facts since the defendants argue that similarity between Bust Dat Groove’s composition and other musical works indicates a lack of originality while the plaintiff counters that their work is not similar to other works and was developed independently. You cannot tell that the production of Bust Dat Groove lack originality. The disputed composition, in this case, comprise of four elements including snare drum, high-hat, bass drum, and the tomtom drum. In the Bust Dat Groove, there are no tom toms but rather has ghost notes that embody a sound considered a cross breed between a tom tom and a snare drum.


Case Study 3

Does The Beastie Boy’s unlicensed use of the musical performance known as “Choir” constitute copyright infringement?

No, The Beastie Boy’s use of “Choir” does not constitute copyright infringement. There is a minimal score in the Choir indicating a complete musical work. The original musical expression in the sound recording was limited to the visual doodling of a “score.” There is no qualitative or quantitative significance of the sample in the composition of the “Choir.” The similarity between the two works is substantial, and an average audience can identify the appropriation. Therefore, the minimal scoring of the composition of the “Choir” bears emphasis. These two works do not have a substantial similarity. Beastie Boys’ use of the “Choir” was minimal, and there is no genuine indication that Beastie Boys violated the copyright laws. Their use of a brief segment of that composition, comprising of three notes differentiated by a half step over a background C note cannot sufficiently claim copyright infringement.  And as earlier mentioned, an average and reasonable listener would identify the appropriation of Beastie Boy’s composition of the “choir.” Beastie Boys did not need a license to the underlying composition because the notes in question – C- D flat – C, over a held C note did not have sufficient originality to merit copyright protection. And even if the sampled segments were original, Beastie Boys use of the “Choir” was minimal and does not constitute copyright infringement.



Newton v. Diamond 349 F.3d 591 (9th Cir. 2003)​

Vargas v. Pfizer, Inc., 418 F. Supp. 2d 369 (S.D.N.Y. 2005)

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