Copyright: Is “Stairway to Heaven” a ripoff?

Led Zeppelin IVA high profile copyright case pits the classic “Stairway to Heaven” against an obscure instrumental, “Taurus.” The band Spirit wrote “Taurus” in 1967. “Stairway to Heaven” was written four years later, in 1971, for the album Led Zeppelin IV. The song went on to become one of the band’s best known songs, popular with legions of teenagers during the 70s. But did Led Zeppelin really rip off “Taurus”? What makes the case fascinating is that the facts support either view. Continue reading →

The demon offspring of Napster and Spotify

AurousHere we go again. Aurous, a decentralized music player that is a cross between the original Napster and Spotify, lets users listen to millions of songs from various sources, all for free and without ads. The app uses the BitTorrent network to link to streamable music from various sources. Its creator, Andrew Sampson, describes the app as a music player that simply piggybacks off other platforms. While some of the sources are legitimate, like YouTube, many others are unregulated operations that basically steal music, like the Russian site Pleer. Continue reading →

Copyright: what the ?*$!

Marvin GayeIt’s good news/bad news for three cases this year in the confusing world of copyright. In March, a jury ruled that Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke had infringed on Marvin Gaye’s hit “Got to Give It Up.” The reasoning was that Thicke’s hit “Blurred Lines” feels like “Got to Give It Up.” Not sounds like, or demonstrably imitates, but “feels” like. That nebulous description has the music industry worried, and, frankly, it is a terrible decision. Continue reading →

Copyright copywrong

If you’ve been following the latest copyright brouhaha, you know that it’s another salvo in a long history of recording labels screwing over artists. When Congress updated copyright law in 1976, they included a provision to allow recording artists the right to buy back their copyrights after 35 years. These “termination rights” recognize the importance of giving artists control over their own creative work after a reasonable period of time. But now that artists are starting to exercise those rights, four record companies — Universal, Sony, EMI and Warner — are arguing that most artists do not qualify under this provision because their recordings were a “work for hire.” Stung by dwindling profits, these companies are trying to squeeze blood out of musicians yet again, even though it clearly violates what Congress intended. But one Congressman is fighting back. Continue reading →