Gould to digitally archive music infringement cases

The Gould School of Law is now home to the Music Copyright Infringement Resource, an online case archive consisting of hundreds of music infringement cases.

Old tunes · An archive of music infringement cases, which dates back to 1845, is now housed at the university in the Gould School of Law. - Alexander Horsono | Daily Trojan

Old tunes · An archive of music infringement cases, which dates back to 1845, is now housed at the university in the Gould School of Law. – Alexander Horsono | Daily Trojan

The digital archive, which contains material dating back to 1845, provides complete summaries of every U.S. music copyright decision, including those involving Michael Jackson, George Harrison and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Jonathan Barnett, a professor of law and the academic director of the Entertainment and Media Law Program at the Gould School of Law, said the opportunity to sponsor a project of this magnitude was an honor.

“We were approached with the opportunity to host it, and we feel it’s a great complement to our knowledge and resource of the [Entertainment and Media Law Program],” Barnett said. “We are very happy to have this opportunity.”

Barnett said Music Copyright Infringement Resource is a convenient tool for the university’s law students.

“It’s useful for our students because it covers a lot of leading cases historically in music copyright,” Barnett said. “If a student is taking a class in copyright and wants to learn more about a case, or if students want to do a research project on a particular case, the [Music Copyright Infringement Resource] gives them that opportunity.”

Founded in 1997 by Charles Cronin, a professor at the Gould School of Law, this project was established after the 1984 copyright case Selle v. Gibb. In Selle, a garage band musician claimed that the Bee Gees song “How Deep Is Your Love” was strikingly similar to his song called “Let It End.”  The final ruling concluded an appellant needed concrete evidence to win a case.

Cronin said that it is necessary to have a resource like the Music Copyright Infringement Resource in order to be able to access, analyze and compare and contrast cases with one another.

“A lot of digital information projects are shedding light on an area of law that is otherwise not accessible,” Cronin said. “By having access to this project, one can look critically at jury decisions and courts’ decisions, and evaluate them with far more information than otherwise known.”

Barnett said the Music Copyright Infringement Resource is free to the public and can be accessed for one’s own interests and benefits.

“It uses a certain index, a chronological index, to organize the cases. Historical material and commentary are available with every decision,” Barnett said.

Law students, music students, librarians and information technology staff members at USC, UCLA and Columbia University have further developed Cronin’s idea. As Cronin enhances this project, he seeks to develop a more global and universal resource.

“I hope in the future it will expand to make more and more of this information universally available so that students, journalists, lawyers and professors everywhere will have access to it,” Cronin said.

Both Cronin and Barnett hope the university community, particularly its music, business and cinema schools and their libraries, will use and benefit from the project.

“This project is very much associated with the film and recording industry, and USC seems perfect as it has a strong entertainment law program as well as a very well-known cinema school,” Cronin said. “Seemed like an appropriate home for it.”